Leadership Learnings: Accentuate the Positives

Today I listened to a fabulous webinar by Josie McClean, hosted by the Adelaide Executive Education Alumni Group via LinkedIn, on the 5 Myths of Leadership (I’m really getting into LinkedIn – it is a portal to a whole other dimension). I found Josie’s talk absolutely wonderful, especially as it is centred so heavily in the concepts of Emergence (not control); Organisation (rather than individualism) and, my personal favourite, on Strengths (rather than weaknesses). If you are interested in hearing this talk, I have attached a link here.

For today’s post, I’m focussing on the last concept: tailoring development based on Strengths, rather than weaknesses. This has especially rang true for me and has backed up other learnings on both Leadership, Community Engagement and Community Development over the last year. What I like so much about a strengths-based model is that it starts from a place of abundance and positivity, rather than one of deficit and need – it’s not about what’s ‘wrong’ or missing in someone, but more a path of appreciative enquiry – building on a person’s skills, talents, passions, knowledge, interests and goals.

In her talk, Josie suggests that a model which focusses heavily on weakness can only offer a very modest ROI, and is possibly not the best use of time or energy. Continuously developing weakness is exhausting and often results in decreases in morale and engagement. There are easier ways to get around weakness, such as working with others who might compliment us and round us out.

Working in strength model offers near perfect performance on an ongoing basis. I’m sure all of us can connect with the experience of working with our strengths. When you’re in your zone, time seems to fly by and you are generally energised by the task itself. Making the best of what we have seems to come a whole lot more naturally. Building upon strengths is important not only to feel better, but also increases productivity and, from a leadership perspective, brings out the very best in people. The levels of engagement, satisfaction, effectiveness and creativity increase exponentially.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to be asked by organisational psychologist (and very dear friend) Vashti Wallace, to undertake a strengths test using the Strengthscope tool. Vashti heads up Work+Life Wellbeing, and dedicates her career to helping people become happy in their workplace and drawing out the best in people. Working through the Strengthscope was great fun and such an affirming experience. This tool identifies key personality and performance strengths as well as outlines the tasks and activities that are most likely to energise you and lead to high levels of engagement. I felt almost proud as I read through the list of strengths that are my own and very pleased that these matched my self-image, current role and the direction I have set for my career path.

If that isn’t enough, there have been many, many studies and books of late exploring the science of “positive psychology” and happiness. All of them advocate for strengths-based approach, and suggest that by focussing strengths and virtues in your life you can build emotional resources and resilience. Working with your strengths can increase your ability to enhance your life and create happiness both in your own life and the lives of others.

Mind you, in saying all this, I’d humbly suggest that if a person’s strengths do not match the job at hand, then it should be a good indicator to move forward onto something that will bring more happiness and fulfillment.

As Bing Crosby croons: You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative: But don’t mess with Mister In-Between.



One response

  1. Oh Yes! Josie confirms for me what I have alway’s belived in…. children having control over their own learning…where the teacher engages with the children in emergent practice that reveals the path (so expansive) rather than the children having to guess what’s in the teacher’s head! (so restrictive) ….and the focus on developing weaknesses….Albert E could have sung along with Bing…Everyone is a Genius…if you judge a fish on it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it’s stupid…what a tragedy and waste of precious energy and why so many of us live in a state of unwellness!

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