One of the primary functions of a leader is to develop those under their charge. Keen powers of observation are necessary to uncover the potential within another person. Knowing someone’s potential and helping them realize their potential is one of the most rewarding experiences a leader can have.
When observing someone who reports to you or is within your sphere of relationships or influence a leader should pay attention to strengths, limitations, and weaknesses. Intentional assessment of these areas will reveal a person’s potential. The goal at this point is to encourage that person to explore their potential and come to a realization that they have a greater capacity and capability then they may realize.
A person’s strengths are comprised of an amalgamation of their spiritual gifts, natural abilities, acquired skills, personality temperament, core values, discovered axiomatic operating principles, experience, and worldview. The configuration of these elements, the dominance of these factors, and the ways which they are applied to events, circumstances, and situations make each individual jut that; individually unique.
Although there exists a wide variety of instruments designed to reveal the many dimensions that make us human; observation of a person in a variety of settings will yield a relatively accurate picture of their God-ordained design, what they offer, and how they can make their greatest contribution to a team, a vision, an objective, or a goal.
Limitations are not weaknesses. Limitations include one area that cannot be mediated and two that can. A person may not have the aptitude demanded of the responsibility they have been given. For instance, if they are put in charge of finances for a project and are required to manage a complex budget yet they have no aptitude for numbers or financial structures they may be doomed to failure. The toe other areas include experience and training; both of which can be mediated by providing opportunities to gain experience or acquire the training necessary for success. So, aptitude, experience and training and the lack thereof is not a weakness; it is a limitation.
A weakness may be a character flaw, a compromised work ethic, a poor attitude or the like. These ‘weaknesses’ may also be mediated but will more than likely take time and patience before a person can conquer these inadequacies. As a leader, manage, or supervisor, you may not have the time to do so especially when a short project deadline looms over the team.
Two factors repeatedly prevent someone from realizing their full potential – competence and confidence. Because of legitimate limitations or weaknesses such as a lack of discipline, a person may experience varying degrees of performance that may adversely impact their competence and confidence thereby affecting the subsequent successful completion of assigned tasks.
So, developing your powers of observation can facilitate your ability to accurate assess someone’s strengths, limitations, and weaknesses. What will become apparent is and understanding of the unrealized potential resident in an individual. Strategies can then be formulated to help them engage their unrealized potential so that they can enjoy new opportunities to exercise their new found awareness. They may be hesitant at first to explore their potential for fear of failure or simply because of unfamiliarity. The leader may have to exert their influence as a sage on the stage or a guide by the side until the person is more comfortable in the exercise of their potential.
A leader may have to adjust their leadership style to accommodate the ability (competence) and readiness (confidence).
If the team member is unable and unwilling or insecure they may have to be directed and shown specifically how to accomplish the task, objective, or role. In this case the leader simply describes the steps necessary to effectively and efficiently complete the task, objective or role.
If the team member is unable but willing or confident the leader might have to coach them through encouragement, empowerment, or exhortation. The leader may still make the final decision but explains the rationale to the team member for learning purposes
If the team member is able but unwilling or insecure the leader may have to shift from a sage on the stage to a guide by the side where the team member is given the opportunity to make the decision with guidance and encouragement from the leader.
If the team member is able and willing or confident the leader should delegate responsibility to the member, observe their performance, and offer timely advice and suggestions as needed or requested.
The reader may recognize this adaptable leadership style as situational leadership. One caution is needed at this point. One’s potential has a boundary. The worst thing a leader can do is to promote the notion that team members can dos anything they set their mind to doing if they are committed and disciplined. That, frankly, is not true. A team member can do what they have the capability and competence to do. Forcing someone beyond their capability and competence will only break their spirit.
People should not be treated as tools or functionaries but valuable resources imbued by his or her Creator to contribute in significant ways to worthwhile endeavors. Helping people realize their God-given potential can only help and organization to reach seemingly impossible dreams.
More on this subject will follow…