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Jack Zenger, author of the new book, How to Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths, suggests that most people don’t really know their weaknesses and don’t understand their strengths. He suggests that the way to really impact the success of any organization isn’t to nit-pick a leader’s weaknesses, but to focus on his or her strengths.
“A leader has a profound impact on the success of an organization,” suggests Zenger.
Zenger is a big fan of 360 degree feedback and argues the real power isn’t identifying a leader’s weaknesses, but where they are strong and can really impact a business. The real difference between surviving as a leader and doing something incredible can be measured and predicted by how successfully a leader can identify and leverage his or her strengths. Only 10 percent of the leaders participating in 360 degree feedback leverage their identified strengths to really impact the success of those organizations—and that top 10 percent make a huge difference.
Most leadership training is focused on the wrong things say Zenger. Focusing on a leaders weaknesses isn’t the answer. What’s more, when leaders focus on their strengths, the research shows that they improve in other areas that might be identified as weaknesses too.
So what’s the key to leveraging your strengths?
Strengths and talents aren’t always the same thing. The big difference, according to Zenger, is that strengths can be developed with practice. “It’s a matter of hours spent practicing,” he says. “Behavior practiced at a very high level becomes a strength. A concert pianist may have spent 10,000 hours practicing while the local piano teacher may have only spent 4-5,000 hours.”
Although both pianists may have talent, it’s the time spent practicing those skills that often make the difference between whether or not a leader is exceptional. This is important because, “A leader,” says Zenger, “can create an epidemic for good—or ill.”
What are you doing to be an exceptional business leader?