October 29, 2019

Learning to Lead: the Crain’s Leadership Academy

I was recently nominated to attend the Crain’s Leadership Academy, which is a professional development program focused on increasing leadership skills by using a person’s core strengths. On Friday, August 23, I attended my first of five sessions and was not disappointed.

Prior to starting the program, attendees took the CliftonStrengths assessment. This 170-question assessment is designed to rank one’s natural strengths within the 34 themes they have identified. While I have always found these assessments to be hit or miss, my results revealed that my top five natural strengths describe my personality to a T. The most interesting aspect to me was I had never considered these traits as strengths, but rather just a part of who I am.

For example, my top strength is Harmony. I will not bore you with the entire description, but some of the key phrases were, “You look for areas of agreement” and “When you know that people around you hold differing views, you try to find the common ground.” These two statements could not be truer.

When I am in a meeting where there is conflict or a difficult debate, I often find myself saying things such as, “I think you may be closer in your beliefs than you realize” or “I think what the two of you are really trying to say is…” I am always attempting to remove emotion and stay rooted in fact. This is not something I think about doing, but rather something I have always done both professionally and personally.

Another core strength I have is Restorative. Key phrases here include, “Whereas some are dismayed when they encounter an issue, you can be energized by it” and “You love saving things.” At Kenway, we call this Rescuing, and I am a rescuer to the fullest extent. There are times when people can barely finish describing the problem, and my mind is already racing with numerous ideas on how I can fix it.

My rescuing personality is so strong, in fact, that I have flagged this as one of my bigger weaknesses. Viewing one of my core strengths as a weakness should not come as a huge surprise. The phrase, “My strength is my biggest weakness” is commonly tossed around. During my first Leadership Academy session, I was provided with a different way to view this by being asked, “What can your strengths hinder?” I recognized that my rescuer tendencies can stifle other peoples’ growth, have destroyed my work/life balance, and can distract me from the activities on which I should really be focused. My strength in Harmony can also hinder my opinion and limit my voice.

While it’s great to understand a person’s core strengths and weaknesses, the real value is in how this knowledge is applied. The ability to understand where natural strengths lie can help a person define where he or she can most successfully lead. It is in these situations where you will be most energized, and your passion will be fueled.

It can also provide insight into what situations you are best to lead and what situations need help from other leaders. If rescuing is not currently one of your prominent strengths and something does, in fact, need to be rescued, leverage someone with that strength from within your organization. It is important to realize that just because something is not currently your strength does not mean it cannot become one! If you are looking to shift your leadership path or grow in certain areas, this knowledge and a growth mindset can guide you to defining and building additional strengths.

At Kenway, our Why is “to help and be helped.” Whether it is through self-reflection, peers’ feedback, or some type of assessment, I believe knowing our natural strengths and the strengths of those with whom we are leading will lead to great things and a greater ability to help. I cannot wait to see what the remaining Crain’s Leadership Academy sessions teach me and look forward to sharing with my colleagues!

How Can We Help?