When I was little, I had a bicycle accident. It was a pretty bad one where I flipped over the handle bars and busted my lip open on the asphalt, needing stitches. There were friends who immediately came to my aid and called for help and others who stayed behind to clean up the damage to the bicycle and asphalt. A (now) funny memory I have is as I lay on the doctor’s table with a needle in my lip to numb it, my mother passed out and they had to use smelling salts to awaken her. As a mother of a three year old rough-and-tumble boy now, I can appreciate the experience my mother felt when her child was hurt. While that accident was traumatic for me as a child, I reflect now on how people react in particular situations and what their focus is. In times of disaster or change, how do you react?
Any one reaction is not more gallant than another. We need all kinds of people in times of turbulence in the organization. You need the person who organizes the change effort, leads the disaster recovery effort, or reinvents the business, just as much as you need the person who assuages the fear of change. Diversifying your team is key to being a successful leader. For instance, I am not as good at relationships as other people on my team. I don’t remember birthdays or work anniversaries without reminders. I don’t remember the names of all the children that my doctors and employees have. I’d like to, but it just isn’t a strength of mine. I do, however, have someone on my team who is AWESOME at just that! My very close friends poke fun at me for being the one who is least likely to remember old classmates. The point is that although these are not my strengths, I surround myself with people to complement my weaknesses and play to their strengths – like a best friend who can remember what I wore on a certain day in grade school!
Ultimately, what will determine whether you are a good leader or a great leader will be your ability to leverage strengths of those around you. I studied Strengths Based Leadership in my baccalaureate program. There we learned the value of complementing our strengths with those of others to fill in the gaps. Personally, I think it is a huge relief as a leader to recognize that I do not need to be good at everything. But, I do need to be good at recognizing strengths and putting together a team that will develop both the human and business components of the organization.