What it means to lead

Thinking at sunsetI recently read an article on LinkedIn by Justin Bariso about the downside of being called a leader. At first glance, I thought this was totally counterintuitive. We've all heard the phrase, "Be a leader, not a follower," right? Exactly.

But once I actually read the post, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I agreed with his insight. And a big reason why comes from a resource one of my first bosses shared with me to help us identify how to work well together: StrengthsFinder.

If you're unfamiliar with StrengthsFinder, it's essentially an assessment to help identify your top five talents, classified as themes (i.e., your natural ways of thinking, feeling, or behaving). There are 34 different themes within this system. Once you are equipped with the knowledge of your own themes, you can work to those strengths every day.

Now imagine if your workplace identified and was aware of everyone's strengths and used that knowledge to be a more efficient and stronger team. That's the type of work culture we would all strive to be a part of. For a deeper dive into StrengthsFinder, Nathan Freeburg provides a really nice write up about the subject.

All six of Justin's takeaways resonated with my top five strengths (Achiever, Discipline, Responsibility, Consistency, and Learner, in case you're interested and/or a fellow StrengthsFinder student):

  1. Set the example.
  2. Be humble.
  3. Praise sincerely.
  4. Be kind. But not weak.
  5. Delegate.
  6. Learn to listen.

Although his points resonated with me, what really gave me pause after reading his article was what I considered to be a good leader. What does that look like? Could I qualify as a good leader based on my definition of one?

That seems to be a good starting point: What do I consider to be a good leader? I respect someone who is authentic and lays it on the line for me; there's no B.S., just the facts and the necessary points of interest. That individual provides clear expectations, brings ideas to the table, acknowledges accomplishments, and although she may address challenges or areas for me to improve on, she does so by working with me and not leaving me to totally fend for myself.

As I look back on Justin's recommendations, it's interesting to see just how much they echo one another and how my idea of a good leader seems to align with the qualities we strive for in ourselves.

So what does it all mean? Is this a subliminal post about making you go out and purchase StrengthsFinder? Absolutely not. Do I see this as a useful tool? You bet. BUT - my true hope is that you do what I did and take some time to think about how you identify good leaders and how you can lead more intentionally. What characteristics immediately come to mind? Why is that? Are they attributes reflected in you? Just as Justin stated in the closing of his article, I'll do so as well: "We're all faced with opportunities to lead, so focus on leading effectively."

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