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Wrong People in the Wrong Position

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Is it wrong to be vaguely addicted to the ever expanding egos on The Apprentice 2023? They seem to have an epic ignorance of each other's strengths, focusing on their own egos and, as a direct result for one team, spectacularly failing by not getting a single sale. This week's task of designing a children's lunchbox with a corresponding app highlighted how disastrous it can be having the wrong people in the wrong position. Couple that with what the future of work will look like, how can you quickly develop the leadership strengths needed to be successful in our new world?

Using a Strength Based Leadership approach

The world of work is still changing, just like the world itself. How work practices will shift, along with trying to predict trends affecting the workforce and workplaces, are just some of the challenges facing leaders.

In McKinsey’s article "What is the future of work" their analysis of the potential for remote work to persist looked at 2,000 tasks used in roughly 800 jobs in eight focus countries. It showed that 20 to 25 percent of workforces in advanced economies could work from home in the range of three to five days a week—which is four to five times more remote work than pre-COVID-19.

What attributes does a successful leader need to have or develop to survive and thrive in this uncertain and volatile world?

The challenges leaders face are numerous, from the changing motivations of their workforce, reskilling and upskilling teams, to finding new ways for people to collaborate. Leaders with a strong sense of purpose, supported with human values aligned to empathy, trust and kindness are successfully attracting and retaining their talent.

GFB’s approach to leadership development, which we share in this article, is based on extensive research. It has been designed to help individuals understand their leadership strengths and provide a view of these strengths within the team and context in which they operate.

Our research has shown that there is no one size fits all model for an effective leader. Successful leaders differ greatly in the skills, personalities and behaviours which have set them apart and helped them to excel in their respective fields. What great leaders do have in common is self-awareness. They understand where they can best use their strengths to drive an organisation forward, know how to get the best out of the people around them and, understand the needs of their workforce - they truly know their strengths - and can call on the right strength at the right time.

"I've never met an effective leader who wasn't aware of his talents and working to sharpen them", Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander

Focus on Strengths

At the core of any strengths-based leadership approach is the underlying belief that people have several times more potential for growth by building on their strengths, rather than focusing on the areas where they may not be so competent. It is the focus on individual strengths that has been the subject of many papers and research into great leadership.

"A strengths focused leader is one who seeks greater results by ensuring that they and the people they lead are able to play to their strengths", Roarty and Toogood (2014)

Playing to strengths builds on awareness of what individuals love doing and what motivates them. Strengths based leadership draws on the findings of the "positive psychology" approach which proposes that utilising your personal strengths will result in more positivity, personal engagement, higher levels of motivation, and overall success.

Zenge and Folkman (2009) in their book ‘The Extraordinary Leader’ draw on data from more than 200,000 individuals and 25,000 leaders to show how leaders can go from being good to great and average to extraordinary. They found that the worst leaders are average at everything and that if individuals focused on developing their strengths - working within the areas in which they excel - then when combined with the right personal characteristics they could become truly great leaders. As long as fatal flaws can be remedied then the excelling in just a small number of areas will have a disproportionate return on the perception of an individual's leadership skills.

"If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything. While our society encourages us to be well-rounded, this approach inadvertently breeds mediocrity. Perhaps the greatest misconception of all is that of the well-rounded leader." Rath and Conchie (2009)

Development Journey

Successful strength based approaches are designed to help leaders identify and focus on deploying their strengths in order to have greater impact in driving business transformation. The approach should use a combination of assessment, facilitator led dialogue, practice and 1-2-1 coaching. This blend of interaction encourages long lasting behavioural change.

Your programme should focus on identifying and raising awareness of an individual's strengths and how to leverage these in driving transformation. It should also look at teams, and the spread of those strengths across teams, to leverage and build well rounded units through leadership profiling.

Research has shown that leaders who leverage their strengths, and the strengths of their people, have more engaged and effective employees who use strengths to build better rounded teams and ultimately realise a more profitable bottom line (Gallup 2002 - 2008). This approach is very effective when leading teams through change.

Trying to be good at everything and focusing on weaknesses breeds mediocrity and is ineffective.

Strengths Identification

GFB’s approach to strengths identification analyses how individual behaviour, personality, ability and technical skills sit within their role and the wider business environment.

Before any strengths based intervention we work with leaders to identify their individual strengths - this is typically undertaken through a combination of interview and a series of online questionnaires.

We use a range of online tools, dependent on specific client requirements and assess based on the well validated Schroder model of high performance (email GFB for more information).

An example programme overview - How does it work?

Once data has been collected, analysed and documented this information is fed back as part of a facilitator led development event where leaders are given one to one coaching feedback throughout the event to raise awareness of their strengths. Delegates should work with their coach to really leverage their strengths and to try new skills in a safe environment.

A development event (typically 2 two days) provides individuals with an important opportunity to review several key strengths as a leader and gain input as to how to use these strengths to drive organisational objectives.

The content of the event should cover a number of leadership models and techniques but also be designed to address real live business challenges currently being faced by the leadership team. Activities should be designed to be challenging and engaging, while also providing delegates with development and support to really move on with their leadership capability.

Contact us to discuss your requirements:

GFB are specialists in strengths based leadership development interventions and have delivered over 50+ development events for over 500 leaders to date. A one-size-fits-all broad brush approach to leadership development is not what we do. We have firmly established and seen real return from a focus on strengths and individual differences. Our clients have seen clear and measurable results in the leaders we work with. If you would be interested in discussing a bespoke approach to your leadership and organisational challenges please get in touch.

Email: or Call +44 (0) 3330902580

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