Thursday, March 31, 2011

Define Your Signature Leadership Qualities

What is your greatest asset?

When I ask that question, what is the first answer that comes to your mind?

What frame of reference did you choose?

If you chose your own personal qualities as a frame of reference, you may have answered "my intellect".   Or perhaps "my ability to organize", "my integrity", "my ability to accomplish so many things in a short amount of time", "my creativity".  You no doubt have a lot of assets, or strengths, and it may be difficult to choose a “greatest” one.

Or, you might have thought “my eyes”, “my smile”, “my skin”, or something else more physical. Nothing wrong with that.

If you chose to answer that question from the frame of reference of accounting, then maybe you thought “my house” or “my 401K” or something else that could be converted into cash if you so desired.

If you answered that question from the frame of reference of a company leader, you may have answered with something like “my customers”, “my employees”, “our track record of stability, growth and service” or even "our intellectual capital".

So how did you answer that question?

Why did you choose the frame of reference that you did and what does that tell you about where you are right now?

Whatever frame of reference you chose, I challenge you to choose a different one.

Answer the question from the perspective of your child, your boss, your customer, your employee, your closest friend. What would they say your greatest asset is?

Understanding what your greatest strengths are can help you define yourself as an individual and a leader. What are your 'signature' qualities? What do you want to be known for?

When I do 360 interviews for my clients, I ask that question in two different ways. I ask their direct reports, manager, and a customer, “What 3 or 4 descriptive words immediately come to mind when you think of (my client)?” The answer to this is not always strengths, and sometimes can be interpreted in more than one way: “strong-willed” for example. The answers to this question reveal the signature qualities that my client is known for.

The next question I ask is “What are (my client’s) greatest strengths?” Ideally, you want the answers to these two questions to be the same, or at least to overlap.

If you know what qualities define you to others, and what your natural talents are, you can decide whether they are leadership qualities that you want to build on or are qualities you want to minimize.  You can define which of your assets you want to be known for, your 'signature leadership qualities'.

Understanding what your greatest talents are can help you identify where you want to put your time and effort.  Spending time, energy, and money to strengthen your natural talents builds them into assets that are unique to you and increase your likelihood for success.

Understanding how you are viewed by others gives you an opportunity to choose to either emphasize those qualities and make them your own, or change them if they are not the impression you want to leave. By deliberately identifying the assets you want to be known for, you are proactively defining your own signature leadership qualities.  Don't allow yourself to be branded by default.  Be conscious of how you convey yourself as a leader, what you stand for, and what your leadership philosophy is. 

So what is your greatest asset? By knowing it and strengthening it, it will become one of your definitive signature leadership qualities.  Make sure that's what you want.


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