The business press loves to create mythic heroes of industry and we love it, too. To a point.
As much as we love a business visionary like, say, Steve Jobs—and we love him to pieces—we are not Steve Jobs, and never could be. Nor should we. All leaders have their own unique talents, which they will use in different ways to bring out the best in themselves and others. Here are 5 ways to discover your own strongest qualities and put them to work in business and in life.
1. Don’t compare yourself with others—but do approach people who inspire, and even intimidate, you.
Are there people in your life who wow or even intimidate you? Are you jealous of them? Go up and introduce yourself, allow yourself to be a part of their lives, and even offer to contribute to their milieu if you are so inclined. If they have a quality you are charged by, perhaps you have not given yourself permission to explore and develop those sides of yourself? Consider aligning yourself with people you feel competitive toward—it's a new world and we have much to learn from each other.
2. Don’t concentrate on weaknesses, do concentrate
First, find out what your strengths are. Go online and take a Briggs Meyers test, an Enneagram test, or buy the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0 book. There are even more robust ways to discover your unique talents, abilities, and ways of thinking by talking with a career coach. Or try them all and see what works. Self-understanding and self-support is key.
Working on one’s weaknesses only brings misery and self-doubt. Concentrating on your strengths brings a better sense of fulfillment and forward progress.
3. Eliminate your weaknesses by partnering with others.
Albert Einstein was initially a failure who leaned heavily on his wife. Many now believe she ultimately helped him devise his famous equation. Let’s be honest: He was a dreamer with his head in the clouds (and thank goodness he was). He came to success in roundabout ways. His wife kept her head on straight and together they accomplished greatness. That is the value of having a partner and team, varieties of perspectives, talents, and skills to get the job done. How is your team?
Do you have someone’s back? Do they have yours? Are there complimentary skill sets involved? If you have people who believe in you, you can go far together. Whether it’s a mentor, employee, or co-worker, get their back and let them get yours.
4. Use failure as motivation.
Things aren’t always going to go your way, no matter how well you and your teams properly align with your goals. Sometimes we need a good kick to get us going. Sometimes we need the pain of failure to reset, revise, and reassess. Are you taking risks? Are you failing? If so, good going.
Winston Churchill failed grandly more than once, and was famously cast to the political "wilderness" and then came roaring back to lead the British resistance. Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded but through persistence ultimately came back to save it from extinction. Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency but then became a powerful and respected Secretary of State. Each of them, in their own way, failed, learned from their mistakes, and most importantly, persisted in the face of failure. Phoenix rising is the way of the world today and we are in the midst of its widespread occurrence.
5. Now is a time of pop-up engagement, leadership, and success.
Innovation demands the work of flexible teams who cooperate, co-lead, and co-create. Mr. Jobs was a hierarchical leader in a time of radical shift from singular creative to co-creative. Over time, he learned what he was best at and how to use his skills, talents, teams, and life lessons to contribute in the best way he knew how. As a hierarchical leader, he succeeded in providing the tools you and I now use in this co-creative environment. Who would have thought it possible? We believe he did, and that he did not do it alone. We also believe you can do that too—on your own terms, with your own teams, and in your own way.
Jody Turner and co-author Jerry Ketel are currently working together, co-creating new business models and outcomes in concert with their creative clients.
[Image: Flickr user Stephen Poff]