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I was working with a creative, innovative leader yesterday, who knowing that I write fairly regularly, asked me for feedback on an article she had written, as she felt unsure of her writing skills.Strengths

As I reflected on her request, it got me thinking about the relative value of skills. In the leadership development space, most of us have at some stage, made use of or referred to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. This was the theory (and assessment tool) that was developed after 30 years of research that for the first time allowed individuals to identify and leverage their innate skills based on how they naturally think, feel and behave. Not surprisingly, it evolved to include inherent leadership strengths and practices, which led to the concept of Strength Based Leadership. Likewise, the recent Multiplier Leader theory also encompasses the concept of harnessing the genius of natural talent. Even Howard Gardner with his model of Multiple Intelligence in 1983 made the case for difference and the value that diverse talents bring.

But – as with so many models, the application is sorely lacking.

I have coached countless leaders who do not believe they have the skill of x or y, and that they are somehow ‘less than’ a peer who has it. I have even coached an enormously successful (think many million USD’s) Director of a public corporation who believed he was not intelligent in the conventional IQ sense.

Yet all these leaders and executives are ok when they lack creative intelligence – when they can’t draw or paint. (How about innovate?) They’re even ok if they can’t play a musical instrument – musical intelligence. But for some reason “I can’t draw” gets judged very differently to “maths isn’t my strength”. Likewise, having verbal ability is often judged as being less valuable than having writing skills.

Even emotional intelligence (EQ), which is so critical to leadership (and in my opinion, is the most critical competency) often pales into relative insignificance when leaders compare this ability to their mathematical or accounting prowess.

As I see it, there are 2 solutions here. The first is identifying what you’re good at, and doing that consistently until you build an undeniable expertise in the area.

The second is to really believe that no one skill is better. You can do some things better than me. I can do some things better than you. We’re not better than each other. We complement each other. (Which is why diversity is so critical. More on that another day). But until YOU believe it, you’ll never feel equal.

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