4 Questions Every Leader Must Ask Themselves About Their Strengths

kid holding ball

This is a post written by Aaron Armour. Aaron has been managing teams for more than 15 years, some as large as 200 employees. He is passionate about helping managers lead people and thrill clients. Manager Launch Pad was created to help managers experience tremendous growth through practical tips, resources and mentorship. Read more about Aaron at ManagerLanunchPad.com and connect with him on Facebook and LinkedIn.

There were 10 sets of wide eyes staring at me, each filled with eagerness to be chosen. We all knew only half would make the first cut. I started to point to 5 of them. “One, two, three, four, and…five.”

With that there were stifled cheers and less-stifled groans. I cheered on the unchosen saying, “Don’t worry guys – everyone will get a chance to play!”

It was time for the scrimmage between two first grade basketball teams and everyone was excited to play.

As the coach I make sure every player has an opportunity to play each position. The goal is to get a broad foundation of rudimentary skills. With young players it is essential that no one gets locked into a single position. There’s too much growth that will happen in the next eight to ten years to accurately predict which position a player will grow into.

As the player gets older and masters the foundational skills they can then identify their strongest skillset transition into a specific role on the team.

Leaders can find themselves in a similar situation. The typical leader has been able to develop the fundamental skills of their business. As a result they are rewarded with promotions and more responsibilities which include leading a team. Now the leader has the issue of identifying their leadership strengths.

This raises the question: how can a leader identify their strengths? Here are four questions to help:

1. What do you do naturally that others struggle to do?

In 1958 Chuck Berry released his hit single Johnny B. Goode. I love the line, “But he could play the guitar just like ringing a bell.” What a vivid complement!

You can use complements to identify your strengths. If a colleague says, “You did are really nice job reigning in that discussion when it started to get out of control,” it may indicate your unique strength to bringing clarity to complexity.

“That customer went from hating us to being a loyal advocate for us,” may reflect your ability to listen, empathize and woo customers by identifying exactly what they need to solve their problem.

2. What do you do that causes time to fly by?

Children have the ability to spend hours on a single activity without tiring of it, only to return to it later. Their measure of enjoyment has very little to do with how much time they spend on a task. They stay engage for hours simply for the sheer joy of it.

Leaders can use awareness of how quickly time passes during a task to identify strengths. Tasks that are laborious and translate minutes into hours probably do not fall within your strengths. On the other hand, when you lose track of time because you are so tuned into the work at hand there is a strong likelihood you are working in their strength.

3. What do you do that is virtually instinctual?

It’s not uncommon for me to ask someone, “How did you do that?” When you get that question take a closer look at what prompted it. It is easy for leaders to forget not everyone thinks and acts the way they do.

Open your eyes to see the way you behave instinctually when you “follow your gut.” Frequently this happens in situations with no time to gather facts and formulate a decision. Take note because this may be a valuable strength.

4. What do you do that transcends subject matter?

Leaders typically become subject matter experts in their field before leading a team. The ability to leverage this expertise in other settings becomes a tremendously valuable strength. Many successful leaders have applied the expertise gained from one industry to supplement the requirements in another industry with great success. (Think of Steve Jobs before he was at the helm of Pixar.)

Identifying strengths is counter intuitive; it seems like it should be natural and easy. However it rarely is. Spend time with an introspective lens and work through these four questions to help identify your strengths.

Working within our strengths gives us energy, enthusiasm and endurance to keep pushing the organization forward. Identifying your strengths will bring remarkable value and clarity.

Question: What’s your most important reason for identifying your strengths?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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17 thoughts on “4 Questions Every Leader Must Ask Themselves About Their Strengths

  1. I love all these questions, Aaron. I think they’re helpful in figuring out what our particular gift is. And I can see it being important to know that to figure out what direction to go in life and what new projects to take on – that’s what I’m trying to figure out right now as I’m launching a new book on Monday and need to figure out what to do next, so this post is helpful to me. Thanks!

  2. Great stuff, Aaron. I like the idea of using compliments to guide you in finding your strengths. Sometimes we deceive ourselves – either by thinking that we’re good when we’re not, or by not realizing how great we really are at something. The confirmation from other people is a great guide in this area.

  3. excellent post Dan – great to meet you Aaron. We need humility in our lives but we also need to be able to accept positive feedback and appreciation from others. They are clues on our strengths as Aaron points out. If the whole word did what it was good at and what it was passionate about, we’d be living in a more passionate & fulfilled world. Thank you both again for encouraging us to identify and uncover our strengths in life.

  4. Transcending subject matters is an interesting idea. There is a lot you can apply from one field to another if you look closely at it. That example of Steve Jobs is perfect. Someone might not think he would be able to apply what he learned to Pixar, but he did. I guess we should all be looking into ourselves to see what we can apply from one area to another.

  5. “Working within our strengths gives us energy, enthusiasm and endurance to keep pushing the organization forward. Identifying your strengths will bring remarkable value and clarity.”

    Absolutely. I love this. I’m always baffled at why more organizations don’t seek to do this and instead hire people based on a somewhat superficial resume. What would every organization be like if people’s strengths were identified almost immediately and there was PURPOSE in everything that they did?

    • I totally relate with your comment. It baffles me too. Those who do focus on working within their strengths become successful people/organizations. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.