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Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Leadership Task - Aligning Strengths

There is a distinction between leadership and a leader. Leadership as a process is larger than the individual leader. That is important because leadership happens in relationship with others and within a context. There are many kinds of leadership; thought leadership; market leadership; political leadership, spiritual leadership. Leadership as a process brings a vision into reality by harnessing all the organisation’s assets: its products, services, technologies, customers, processes, systems, reputation, individual talents, knowledge, and skills. These collective assets are the strengths of the organisation – the positive core.

Peter Drucker wrote in his 1967 classic, The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials): “To make strength productive is the unique purpose of the organisation. It cannot, of course, overcome the weaknesses with which each of us is abundantly endowed. But it can make them irrelevant.”

So if, in fact, a key task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths, then imagine the possibilities of strengths connected to strengths? What might that look like and why might that be worth striving for?

For leadership to create an alignment of strengths, it most likely means looking at organisations with new eyes. What if we were to look at organisation not as problems to be solved, but as miracles to be embraced? What if we were consciously to look for the good and hold up the achievements and the successes; to invest generously and respectfully in inquiring into existing organisational strengths and assets? What if we were to invite people to tell their stories of when they felt most energised, enlivened and valued at work. And we listened. Really listened. What language would employees, customers, vendors, media be using? Is it uplifting and positive? What are their stories of experiences with all the products, services and people?

The most important part of this is when you focus on what works well, and what you want, it creates upward spirals and you begin to know and enact your capabilities, your potential and what you want more of. Performance will improve, as it is most energising and creative to have people talk about what they can do and what they aspire to. Two maxims come to mind:
  • What you focus on grows.
  • People support what they create.
To connect strengths to strengths and to see anew, with an appreciative eye, and to facilitate the positive leadership capability so that it creates flourishing organisations is work that is meaningful, joyful, rewarding and essential.