Thursday, August 5, 2010

Friday's Thought

Happy Friday Everyone,
I was also with Matt over in the desert, but I was in Kadhimyah (Baghdad) rather than Baqubah. During and following the invasion there was definitely a lack of clarity, but it turned out to be a great developmental experience in terms of leadership growth – because that was the only option.

“Know Thyself” – Temple at Delphi, possibly Socrates

“To Thine Own Self Be True” – Hamlet, Shakespeare

Two brilliant minds separated by the centuries with essentially the same piece of wisdom continuing from their time into ours. How can you ever be a great leader if you don’t understand yourself? Just as you would assess an enemy – his capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses – you have to be able to assess yourself. What are your own personal capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses? You have to be able to determine these key facts about yourself before you can expect anyone to follow you – after all, great leadership is about influencing others to follow you of their own volition.

Just like there are many steps to IPE (Intelligence Preparation of the Environment, we’ll get into that sometime later) there are many steps and different ways to determine these characteristics about yourself. To be brief for the sake of the blog, these characteristics cannot be simplified into what you THINK you like/don’t like and what you THINK you’re good at/not good at. I happen to have a particular knack for IT, I pick up programming, databases, web design, etc. pretty quickly and receive lots of praise for my products. Great, that can be counted as a strength, but only because there is some external evidence verifying what I THINK I’m good at. Just because you think you have a strength doesn’t mean you really do: consider the 45 year old busboy who is, of course, not really a busboy but a writer, singer, actor, whatever. He may believe he has a great talent and is really good at it, but the fact that he’s been waiting for his big break for 25 years should be evidence enough to show that his talent probably isn’t much of a strength – even if he continues to think it is. This may be a particularly egregious example but I bet that in less than one minute you can name at least two people you know personally that are participating in a similar suspension of disbelief.

A similar paradigm works when assessing your weaknesses. For capabilities though, you need to go a step farther. I may have a natural knack for computers and IT, but I HATE working on that stuff all day, and could never make a career in that field without ending up on the evening news. A capability has to be a realistic assumption of how strengths and weaknesses may be utilized based on the viable options open to you. Any career that involves me wading in IT problems constantly is simply not viable. It may be a strength but it ends up counting more as an ancillary skill than a true capability.

So go back and take a look at your last resume, which of the strengths are on there because you thought they would sound good? How many do you loathe actually doing? When was the last time you received meaningful positive feedback on one of them, not just an ‘atta boy’?

Dig a little deeper to find your Terra Veritas, and then you’ll be in a much better position to lead others.

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