Playing to one’s leadership strengths is a skill that can take years to hone. Perhaps one of the biggest factors is being honest about what one’s limitations and strengths actually are. Too many “leaders” believe that they are someone completely different than who they actually are, and that reflects in what their subordinates think of them, and the quality of work they produce. Without knowing their current strengths and weaknesses, a leader cannot map out a path to becoming a better leader.
One of the best ways to get a good assessment of one’s strengths is to take a personality test. The Meyer-Jung test is used by many university psychology and business classes, and can be found for free here. This type of test assesses a number of different personality metrics, and places the user into one of 16 categories. Each of these categories has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Another way to get good feedback about current leadership strengths and weaknesses is to encourage honest (and often anonymous) feedback from subordinates. Taking feedback from a superior is useful as well, but a superior may not be privy to knowledge of a particular leader’s style as it pertains to their subordinates, while subordinates often understand how their leader interacts with those higher up. The superior may not know that a leader is a micromanager, or that they put down, or insult their subordinates. Accepting feedback and criticism from subordinates is absolutely essential to becoming a better leader, so much so that according to this article from Forbes, the top 10% of leaders who asked for feedback, were also ranked the best in leadership effectiveness.
Once their current strengths and weaknesses are known, a leader can begin to really leverage their strengths to the advantage of everyone around them, simply by doing what they did before, but more and better. The real advantage of this self-assessment though, is that once a leader knows their weaknesses, they can begin to fill in those gaps, by delegating to subordinates who are stronger in that area, or by seeking mentorship from other leaders or superior who have experience with that particular issue or project type. In a crunch, just knowing that they are weak in a particular area can allow a leader to research a problem more thoroughly, sometimes even turning that weakness into a strength.