“The more senior one becomes, the more one realises that recruiting, growing and retaining the right talent is a challenge for any organization” says Suzanne Pollack, an experienced business leader who has worked at Shell and IBM and is now a visiting fellow at Henley Business School. In a recent white paper from the school she goes on to explain the benefits for senior executives as well as the wider organization. “The better you are at spotting and developing talented people the shorter your ‘to do’ list becomes as these capable, talented and motivated people step up all round you to make the right things happen…”
The challenge for business leaders is to ensure that people step up into roles that are suited to their particular interests and skills where their talent can shine and that square pegs do not encounter round holes. In the White Paper, written to support Henley’s Leadership Programme, Pollack describes an experience when getting this wrong nearly caused a complete company meltdown.
The White Paper suggests that the way forward is to adopt a ‘strengths based’ approach to harnessing individual talent within teams and for leaders to acknowledge where their own strengths lie and to avoid getting involved in areas where they are frankly not very good.
The strengths based approach is an aspect of being an authentic leader. “Focusing on (worrying about!) our weaknesses, as so many of us are prone to do, will not get us and/or the organization where we want to be.” says Pollack. “Instead, working out what our strengths are, and focusing on them and where they can be most successfully deployed, will create a cycle of success for individuals and organizations.”
Pollack also highlights the perils of the ever-present ‘impostor syndrome’, where able people lack confidence in their suitability for roles; she reminds us that even Albert Einstein suffered this psychosis, saying to a friend “The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease….”
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