Many years ago I was a marketing director at American Express and managed a considerable number of staff.
Every year we all had to submit to an annual performance review. I used to dread these as they were designed (I felt) to point out everything is was weak at.
Not once did they (my boss) highlight anything I was good at. The idea was that somehow by showcasing your weaknesses then these could be improved so you could become a better leader.
The problem with this approach was that at the end of this review I always felt flat, demotivated and disengaged.
Thank God things have changed.
Now a new approach is being taken up by contemporary leaders.
It’s called Strengths Based Leadership.
Based on years of research and thousands of interviews by the scientists at Gallup the idea is to focus more on a leaders strengths.
And the strengths of each of the team members.
Ideally the strengths of each team member will form a stronger team as well.
I would like to build on the Strengths Based Leadership approach by adopting more of a systems perspective.
Let’s use the number 1 mens tennis player Novak Djokovic as an example of what I mean.
If we just concentrated on Novak’s strengths as a player we might mention his return of serve for example, fitness and all court game.
But this would miss one of the main reasons for his success.
It’s the strengths of his team that makes the difference. Both individual and collective and the relationships between each of the members from the fitness coach, lawyer, hit up partners, coaches etc.
Now consider a leader.
Assessing the strengths of any individual leader only might miss the bigger picture.
Its their leadership system that drives performance.
By this I mean the connection they have with their team, each member of the team, how they interact and how the leader interacts with other leader’s.
Its the strengths of their system that can make or break a leader.
A system perspective means that you consider all the nodes and connections not just the individual leader.
It also means that if you change one part of the system, you change every part of the system.
So leadership development of the future should help leaders build a strong system as well as leveraging their individual strengths.