What Really Matters in Effective Leadership
The maxim may be true that you cannot lead others if you don’t understand yourself. However, leading only with a strengths-based focus can reveal character blind spots, which may cascade to organizational weaknesses.
For example, a creative, big-picture thinker who cannot translate their vision into a realistic operating plan with specifics about resources, responsibilities and timelines is hamstrung if they don’t seek out ways to develop the yang to their yin.
A natural collaborator who can bring people together and pool insights won’t be much use if they don’t know when or how to end discussion and decide next steps.
In some ways, chasing strengths is a cop-out. Leaders can be lulled into thinking that their strengths are enough. This may inhibit their development mindset. Also, weaknesses are weaknesses, and there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If a leader can only operate in “command” mode, what are they not hearing or observing?
What’s needed is a a more balanced approach to leadership learning and development, especially in today’s complex, dynamic, ever-shifting world.
New research shows that the most effective leaders are the ones with the broadest repertoire of complementary skills and competencies. In other words, they are versatile.
Versatility is the capacity to read and respond to change with a wide range of correlative skills and behaviors.
How Does a Leader Develop Versatility?
- Broaden your perspective — Seek out roles that stretch your skills and experiences. Versatile leaders tend to have more diverse career paths and work experiences than others, as well as the learning agility to absorb lessons and incorporate them in their leadership tool kits.
- Solicit ongoing feedback — It’s crucial to get input about the impact and effectiveness of your behavior. Versatile leaders not only respond well to change, they also change their behavior in response to constructive criticism.
- Become a more well-rounded person — Be open to new opportunities and capabilities. Versatile leaders show a pattern of stepping beyond the familiar and comfortable.
As you move forward, developing as a leader and a person, this quote from the late Peter Drucker could be your touchstone.
What should I stop, start and continue doing to be more effective?
Our Supervisory Leadership Certificate Program includes a diverse course curriculum that not only includes a core course “Development Yourself and Others” but also covers other critical topics like “Coaching for Performance,” “Change Management,” “Supervision and Human Resource Functions,” “Interpersonal Communication,” “Helping Your Team Achieve Organizational Management,” along with a Capstone Course that integrates all the learning and knowledge. Now enrolling for the spring session, starting in February.
Harvard Business Review, “The Best Leaders are Versatile Ones,” Robert B. Kaiser, March 2, 2020.
Talent Quarterly, “Your Leader’s Strengths May Be Your Company’s Weaknesses,” Rob Kaiser, M.S., September 17, 2019.
Read Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein or watch his TED Talk “Why Specializing Early Doesn’t Always Mean Career Success.”