Why Playing to your Strengths as a Global Leader is a Double-Edged Sword

thumbnailIt’s pretty obvious that spending a great deal of time trying to fix our weaknesses can be counterproductive: focusing on strengths will reap greater rewards much more efficiently and certainly more enjoyably.

But here’s the question – are each of your strengths the result of cultivating genuine talent, or are they the result of years of struggle and effort which you would not have developed had circumstances not led you to do so? Differentiating between the two is important as, if it is the latter, you may be expending a great deal of energy with questionable return at the expense of activities where you really can be very efficient.

Increasing evidence from recent brain scanning technologies such as PET and MRI tells us that these variations are due to physical differences in our wiring. Most of us have natural strengths linked to one of the brain’s four specialized areas, otherwise known as modes, which cause us to favour and use a certain style ahead of others. Basically our neurochemistry is working best where there is least electrochemical resistance. When we are acting true to ourselves, we feel ‘in the zone’ and that what we are doing is effortless. So for me that would be an activity like generating ideas for a new product or service. For others it might be weighing up all the variables to make a judgement on performance, or finding out what their team is feeling about a global restructuring programme, or developing a robust system to deliver greater efficiency.

Unfortunately life has a habit of leading us to develop and use competencies outside our preference. When we adapt our natural thinking and working styles to fit the expectations of others, tension and stress results. We can have difficulty concentrating, tire easily and get frustrated.

This happens for me at work if I am faced with a great deal of financial detail to process. At home I have become good at managing relentlessly mundane schedules around meals, study, kids clubs and discipline, all the more difficult because my children are challenged by Attention Deficit Disorder (more on this to come, especially the fascinating links to successful global executives). So while friends and colleagues might label me as Mrs Organized, it is an effort for me to be this way, and I succeed here at the expense of using my creative talents. Dr Carl Yung called this falsifying type and there is now emerging evidence from people like Katherine Benziger that over time it can lead to illness, depression and collapse.

So how can you work out whether your dominance is natural (an innate preference) or practical (a pattern developed over time)? Here are some suggestions:

  • Think about what you were like as a child and what you loved to do. Where were you ‘in the zone’? What is the relationship between what you were doing then and what you like doing now?
  • Think about your role as a global leader. In which of your competencies are you genuinely in the flow? When are you at your best? Are you deploying your team members in the best way possible and to make the best of their preferences?
  • Explore what Katherine Benziger has to say about brain dominance and consider how you can make better use of your preferences, both at home and at work
  • Visit Teetch to complete the Brain Game and get a top-line view of your brain preference.
  • Find out how I can work with you to accelerate your understanding of your preferences. Together we can find practical steps to shift more of your time into activities which match your natural preference and which will enhance both your performance as a global leader and your well-being.

For more information Clare McNamara’s work with global executives and their teams visit www.moveaheadglobal.com

© Move Ahead Global 2014

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