Your Strengths Don't Matter

#leadership career advancement Jul 10, 2024

TLDR: Strengths don't matter...except to the extent that they enable your ever-enhancing leadership capabilities and ever more effective leadership actions. Here's why: 

Do I have your attention yet?

It's not 100 percent true, of course, and I will get to that in a minute. But first, let me explain what I mean.

When it comes to career growth, decisions are made on the basis of your proven and perceived leadership skills.

(Of course, bias in the minds of the hiring or promoting managers come into play, but since we can't do anything about that, I won't address that here.)

What is leadership? You probably already know my leadership definition, but if you don't:


So let's examine strengths in the context of each component of the definition.

Using the Greatness in You

When it comes to personal greatness, strengths comprise only 1/6th of the total package.

Based on an extensive review of the leadership literature, personal greatness includes:

  1. Native born attributes (e.g. various intelligences - interpersonal, intra-personal, analytical, spatial, etc.)

  2. Strengths (various skills that have been learned and developed)

  3. Values (answers to the question, "To be a good person I must...")

  4. Worldview or Mindsets (i.e. the lenses through which you see and interpret the world, e.g. egalitarian vs elitist)

  5. Leadership in your whole life (activities outside of work that interest someone and make her/him/them interesting)

  6. Purpose (a sense - however ambiguous or clear - of why you are here, the legacy you're meant to leave.

In other words, strengths comprise only 1/6th of 1/3rd of the leadership definition.

Engaging the Greatness in Others

Let's look at a second component of leadership, the ability to engage the greatness in others.

Basically there are three important and broad elements here:

  1. Interpersonal skills - your ability to effectively interact one on one with others.

  2. Team skills - your ability to engage and align team(s).

  3. Strategic relationships and the way you deploy your relationships

Achieve & Sustain Extraordinary Outcomes

And then the third component of leadership is the ability to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes.

Here, getting results is neutralized because everyone is expected to get results. And hiring and promotion decisions are based on the fact that people have gotten results.

But what's not talked about as much, except by managers, executive decision-makers, me and a few of my colleagues, are proven and perceived:

  1. Business acumen

  2. Financial Acumen

  3. Strategic Acumen

Strengths Must Be Deployed

I am not saying, pay no attention to your client's strengths.

What I'm saying is give them weight proportional to their contribution to her leadership capabilities.

You've probably heard or read the phrase, "First discover your strengths."

What comes next? Did you ever hear how to deploy those strengths in order to"

  • Develop and demonstrate their business, financial and strategic acumen

  • Engage your strategic network?


Strengths must deployed in service of the actions of leadership. They are not the basis of leadership.

They are deployed in order to expand your ability to:

  • Interact effectively with others

  • Engage and align your team(s)

  • Build a network and use it to advance the organization's goals.

  • Develop and demonstrate business, financial, and strategic acumen.

This is what no one is telling you.

If the first step is for you to know your strengths, the second step is to understand that they are only 1/12 of what you need to become a great leader - and that that is only true if you deploys them to continuously improve you other components of leadership.

This is one of the reasons that I so frequently talk about and am annoyed by the fact that most leadership development programs and organizations over-focus on personal greatness using assessments like Strengths Finder and MBTI and DiSC. These have a value because one of the characteristics of successful leaders is that they are self aware.

But leadership development programs and organizations are not appropriately proportioned in relationship to the entirety of leadership.

Most also over-focus on engaging the greatness in others - offering skill building about giving and receiving feedback, how to create high functioning teams, creating an inclusive and safe culture, etc. All of which are important, and most of which managers expect women to be good at (and we are).

If you're "good enough" in the eyes of her management, you don't have to "polish the diamond" by investing time and energy at getting even better at engaging others.

Only ≤ 25% of organizations performance evals focus on business, financial, and strategic acumen, meaning that's developmental feedback that you client don't get. Furthermore, women are rarely told how to deploy our strengths in order to develop these skill areas.

It's important to be asking yourself and your manager(s), "Am I also "good enough" at business, financial, and strategic acumen?" If not, focus on "strengthen the setting."

Let's Recap

  1. Don't rely on your strengths to get you where you want to go.

  2. Deploy your strengths in the service of skills and actions in the areas of strategic networks and business savvy.

  3. Don't rely on feedback you receive from formal HR systems or formal leadership programs. They are singularly untrustworthy indicators of whether you will be seen as a leader and as a viable candidate for open positions.

What's a Woman to Do?

  1. Yes, celebrate the self awareness that comes from knowing your strengths.

  2. Develop a plan or a roadmap for how you can deploy those strengths in areas that need development. For most women, it's not in the areas of interpersonal and team skills. They can be in the area of developing and nurturing a strategic network that drives the organization forward. And they can most certainly be in the area of developing her business savvy (or business financial and strategic acumen).

  3. When you're in a situation of having received feedback about your strengths, think about these questions:

  • How am I deploying my strengths to do a better job at one on one communications?

  • How am I deploying your strengths to do a better job at engaging and aligning my team or teams?

  • How am I deploying your strengths to develop, nurture, and activate a strategic network that helps drive the organization forward?

  • How am I deploying your strengths to develop and demonstrate my business acumen?

  • How am I deploying your strengths to develop and demonstrate my financial acumen?

  • How am I deploying your strengths to develop and demonstrate my strategic acumen?

These are important, because, as I said at the beginning, strengths don't matter...except to the extent that they enable your ever-enhancing leadership capabilities and ever more effective leadership actions.

Here's to your continued success.

Catch you next time,



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