There are a variety of sources of strengths as a leader. We may draw strength from qualities, personality, gifts, talents, relationships, experiences, and skills.
I am in awe of people who are able to uncover and use their hidden strengths.
Hidden strengths is a term I use to refer to strengths that a person has that are hidden, at least temporarily, even to them. On the surface this strength may not seem like strength. It may be experienced more as a tough experience or a deficit, but with careful and creative reflection the person may transform this into a source of strength.
In addition to leadership development I am also a counsellor-educator. In the field of counselling we refer to counsellors with hidden strengths as wounded-healers. A wounded-healer is someone who may be wounded in living but is able to transform his or her wounds into the strength of helping. I believe it was Robert Bly who stated: Our wounds transformed become our gifts to our community.
Perhaps you grew up in an unpredictable and chaotic family and now you are at home with an unpredictable and chaotic workplace. Perhaps you grew up in a chemically dependent family and to survive you had to read your parents dependency and now as a leader you find that you “read” people very well. Perhaps you were downsized and this experience gives you the strength of empathy for the people you lead. It is an honor as a counsellor to witness the transformation of a struggle into a strength.
On a cautionary note, the transformation of struggles into strengths does not always occur and I don’t believe it should always occur. When life throws us a lemon we do not always need to make lemonade. Sometimes a lemon is just a lemon and transformation should not be trivialized into always trying to find the silver lining in the dark clouds of experience. Transformation in my mind is invited, usually by the individual themselves, not imposed by well-meaning people “just trying to help.”
Yet, here is an example of tapping into a hidden strength by Pete Quily. Pete is an Attention Deficit Disorder Coach in Vancouver. B.C. Pete authors a site on Adult ADD strengths. If you are unfamiliar with Attention Deficit disorder here is the introduction on Wikipedia
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (sometimes also referred to as ADD) is a psychiatric diagnosis that identifies characteristics such as hyperactivity, forgetfulness, mood shifts, poor impulse control, and distractibility, when judged to be chronic, as symptoms of a neurological pathology. ADHD is commonly diagnosed among children. When diagnosed in adults, it is regarded as adult attention-deficit disorder (AADD). It is believed that approximately 30 to 70% of children diagnosed with ADHD retain the disorder as adults.Click here to read more about it.
Pete, who experienced his own struggles with AADD, listed 151 Positive characteristics of people with attention deficit disorder. He also recently published the Top 10 advantages of ADD in a High Tech Career. These high tech career advantages are: the ability to hyper focus; rapid fire mind; multitasking at will, high energy level; highly creative; quick learner; stimulus seeking brain; constantly scanning your environment; great in a crisis, and risk taker.
I believe it can be helpful for children with ADHD, and their parents, to see the possible strengths in children with ADHD. To also know that some of the very things they struggle with may be the qualities a future employee may look for can foster not only hope but also a new look at how the child is behaving in their present environment. When the stress mounts, it can be helpful to take a distant view of close things.
I encourage you to pay attention to what you may have experienced as a struggle or a deficit and re-examine it as a possible strength. As Friedrich Nietzsche stated: what does not kill me, will make me stronger.
What have been your struggles?
Can you now see strengths that you can draw out of those struggles that will make you a strong leader?
How can you leverage, these formerly hidden strengths, in the service of others?