The greatest leaders are strengths optimisers

The greatest leaders know how to stretch their own strengths and the strengths of their people. Like NASA’s pioneering leaders in the 1950’s, so brilliantly portrayed in the blockbuster movie, The Right Stuff, they find people with the right strengths for the job and put their strengths to work from the outset.

This involves stretching people outside their comfort zone to test their limits across different situations. It is this stretch that helps people to grow and find the outer reaches of their potential; they learn about their true passions, values and work they find most meaningful. People relish challenge provided it is the right type of challenge and plays to their strengths. People rarely enjoy challenge where this is in an area of obvious weakness and drains their energy. All this negative stretch does is to demotivate people and ultimately, they will leave the company and find a more energising role where they can play to their natural strengths.

Leaders also know how to reassure and support people through a challenging situation. They don’t overdo the level of support and hand-hold or micromanage people; they check in on a regular basis to see how the person is doing and coach them through areas in which they might be struggling, just as a pro sports coach would do.

As Liz Wiseman pointed out in her bestselling book “Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter”, great leaders focus not on showing how smart and brilliant they are at the expense of giving their people an opportunity to shine and grow. Rather, they are “genius makers” who invest in coaching, delegating, supporting and inspiring their people to be the best they can possibly be so that they can take to the stage and bask in the glory of their success.

James Brook, Joint Managing Director, Strengths Partnership

Wiseman, L. and McKeown, G. (2010). Mutipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter. New York: Harper Business