Leadership is the critical success factor for organizations. Leaders have by far the greatest influence on employee engagement, employability, and motivation. Motivated and high-performing employees also strengthen the position of the leader and the business results.

As a leader, you must be able to balance between guidance and self-direction, control and letting go, and connecting and trusting. This demands a lot from leaders and managers. Leadership is becoming increasingly complex and demanding. Different demands are being placed on leaders, with more attention being given to emotional intelligence, empathy, and coaching skills.

The foundation of excellent leadership is authenticity, trust, collaboration, passion, and inspiration.

Leaders are increasingly responsible for the development of employees and must ensure that people are deployed in the right place (or places), where they can best utilize their strengths.

“Leaders for the future need values and vision, must be authentic and agile, possess inner harmony and be purposeful. Add awareness and responsibility, self-belief, and a good dose of emotional intelligence to this combination and we have a powerful recipe.” – John Whitmore


People-oriented leadership is the top priority number one according to Gartner’s research into the top 5 priorities for HR leaders.

Gartner research shows that a human-centric approach, which provides people with more control over their work and work environment, also makes them more productive.

Gartner surveyed hundreds of HR leaders in 60 countries and all major industries, and the majority of respondents put “effectiveness of leaders and managers” as their top priority.


  1. EFFECTIVENESS OF LEADERS AND MANAGERS is a top priority for 60% of HR leaders.

A large portion of HR leaders say that their leadership development approach does not prepare leaders for the future of work.

The three environmental shifts of social and political turbulence, work-life fusion and flexible work arrangements are redefining the leader-employee dynamic into a human-to-human relationship.

As today’s work environment changes, so must leadership.

Personalized experience: 82% of employees say it’s important for their organization to see them as a person, not just an employee.

The human-to-human dynamics in the workplace force leaders to demonstrate people-centric leadership, defined as leading with authenticity, empathy, and adaptability. These qualities have long been cited as some of the most important qualities of great leaders.

New imperative The Human-Centric Leader: The human-to-human dynamic in the workplace pushes leaders to display human-centric leadership, defined as leading with authenticity, empathy and adaptivity. These traits have been listed for some time among the key qualities of great leaders — but they were considered nice to have. Employees today demand them.

Employees demand different things now from their leaders, they want to be seen, heard, and appreciated. An effective leader is strong in tapping into and encouraging the potential, talents, and energy of others.

Many organizations claim that people are at the center, that people are the most important asset of the organization, but in practice, this is sometimes not reflected enough. Leadership is primarily focused on results and tasks, while various studies have shown that more people-oriented and development-oriented leadership leads to more engagement, motivation and high-performance. A better balance must be achieved as the two are not mutually exclusive but rather reinforce each other. Being more people-centric also increases engagement and thus performance and productivity.

Research shows that human-centric and talent-centric leadership (strengths-based leadership) is a predictor of job satisfaction and employee engagement.


The development of leaders is still mainly approached as working on weaknesses and improving competencies. The starting point of strengths-based development is focusing more on your strengths than on your weaknesses. Modern leadership mainly involves getting the best out of yourself and others as a leader and treating people as the unique individuals they are. Firstly, as a leader, you need to know where your own strengths lie and then apply them to your employees.

Professor and leadership coach Bas Kodden says, “Do you build on strengths or try to compensate for weaknesses? If you focus your energy on compensating for weaknesses, you end up with a large set of strong weaknesses.” Make sure you keep developing yourself based on your strengths and dare to trust in them.”

Manfred Kets de Vries, an executive coach, author, and professor of leadership development, has trained thousands of leaders, and every time he notices that leaders are not reflective. He advises leaders to only do what is important and what they enjoy doing. What gives them energy. The rest should be left to someone else. “Otherwise, an illusion of control arises.”

Peter Drucker (the well-known management thinker and author who is often considered the father of modern management) emphasized that leaders should work from their strengths because he believed that leaders and employees perform best when they can use their  strengths. He said the best way for executives to spend their time is to focus on what they do best instead of trying to improve weaknesses. He also believed that this leads to higher employee satisfaction and motivation.

Self-awareness and self-reflection are crucial. By leading from personal strength and authenticity, you can bring out the best in yourself and others and you will derive more satisfaction from your work and relationships.

Professionals usually have the hard skills, the technical skills, but excelling in an IT or financial position does not necessarily mean that you are also a good manager/leader. Soft skills such as empathy and the willingness and ability to develop others are also necessary. According to Gallup, only one in five leaders has the necessary skills to promote employee engagement. This is likely because selection still favors hard skills and the idea that someone “deserves” a promotion over people management skills. Human energy, motivation, and engagement make the difference, not rules and procedures, processes, and systems. Good leadership cannot exist without good people management skills.


Research suggests that successful leaders have very different personalities and qualities they draw on in order to achieve results. It seems that leaders are not well-rounded people. Nor do they possess the same qualities and competencies. Effective leadership usually depends on the situation and context, and there is no formula for excellent leadership. Highly effective leaders usually exhibit several clear strengths, but these differ for each leader. Leaders who try to become good at everything are ultimately less effective. Effective leaders have different strengths and they use their strengths.

Obviously, how effective you are in your leadership role does not solely depend on you. It is important to recognize the strengths of employees and ensure that you use these strengths of others in the right way. Instead of forcing team members to work on projects that need to be done, it works better to look at the individual and collective strengths of your team members, how they can complement each other best. You should become a strengths-spotter, have conversations you’re your team about it, and look for a “best-fit.”

An effective leader motivates his or her employees and can easily empathize with others, has a lot of self-awareness, is open to feedback, and in response to certain situations, adjusts his or her leadership style.

There are countless leadership styles and top 10 lists that prescribe what good leadership is. But we don’t become that much wiser from them. Successful leadership starts at the core, with yourself, with self-knowledge and self-leadership. Authentic leaders achieve greater impact than those trying to fit a stereotype of a leader

First and foremost, as a leader, you must know and cultivate your own strengths. Leaders often find it remarkably difficult to name their own strengths. And discovering your strengths is not enough, you also need to know how to use and dose them.

80 % of leaders have blind spots about their skills and another 40 % have under-used hidden strengths – Korn Ferry


What is your uniqueness in your leadership? What does effective and authentic leadership mean to you? Do you feel that you are authentic and effective in your leadership? Do you take enough time for self-reflection and your personal and professional growth? Do you pay enough attention to the development of others? Are you open to feedback, and do you act on it? Do you know what gives you positive energy, what drains you, what your values are, what your pitfalls are, what gives you satisfaction, when you are at your best?

It helps to develop a powerful, authentic, and positive leadership style using your own leadership strengths. According to Bob Johansen, the author of the book ‘Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World’, one of the most important leadership skills to remain successful in the VUCA world is “maker instinct”; “use all the inner skills you have. Bring this out in others. Do what you are good at and work from that strength.”

Try to develop your full potential in your work and in your life and try to inspire others to do the same.

A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential. – Brené Brown


The relationship with the supervisor is the most important factor for engagement or disengagement.

People join companies but leave managers.

“Over 70% of how we feel about work is tied to our manager” – Kevin Kruse, employee engagement expert and writer

Poor leadership can cause people’s energy to drain away, make them feel (psychologically) unsafe in their work environment, increase stress, and eventually this can culminate in burnouts.

Generally, it appears that leaders and managers (often without realizing it) create a demotivating work atmosphere. This can lead to quiet quitting, disengagement, while employee engagement is crucial for organizational success.

George Kohlkieser (American psychologist, IMD professor, and author of the book Care To Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership) states that we can only improve engagement by creating engagement and safety. According to him, supervisors are not connected to their employees and do not really communicate with them enough.


Employee satisfaction surveys do not measure employee engagement. Measuring satisfaction does not really provide valuable information. “Satisfaction is a form of pleasure, but also of inactivity. Satisfaction surveys among employees measure a passive form of pleasure. You don’t want to see that in organizations” (Prof. Dr. W. van Rhenen).

There are many definitions of employee engagement. Employee engagement implies that employees deliver high performance and that they are dedicated and loyal, they are willing to go the extra mile and act as ambassadors for the organization. They have an understanding of- and a positive attitude towards the organization’s mission, vision, and strategy.

Engaged employees set higher goals and are willing to make extra efforts to achieve them. They are ambassadors for the organization and create a positive and productive relationship with customers. Employees are not motivated and engaged by chance. Scientific research shows that focusing on employees’ strengths increases engagement.

“About 85 percent of employees do not feel engaged. Make sure you create an organization where people feel engaged” (Manfred Kets de Vries).


Leaders have a significant influence on the engagement, wellbeing, and performance of employees. They must more than ever be a role model and be able to inspire, motivate, and connect. Also self-organizing and remote or hybrid teams, for example, need a strong, people-oriented leader. More than a quarter of highly educated professionals who are actively seeking other work do so because of their leader!

Strong leaders and managers serve as role models and are able to inspire and stimulate others, thus increasing engagement, wellbeing, performance, and productivity. Poor leadership, on the other hand, can cause a lot of damage. The effectiveness and leadership style of most leaders is not optimal. Leadership research also shows that leaders and employees do not have the same view of the leader’s leadership style.

Many employees find their leader directive, and no employee is satisfied with this style. Most leaders rate their leadership style as people-oriented, but only a small percentage of employees recognize this.



“If I had to single out the best leadership decision I ever made during my entire career at Microsoft, the one momentous action that made the biggest difference, it would have to be – hands down – the decision to start working on my own and my team’s strengths. Building strengths makes good business sense.” – Jan Mühlfeit (executive coach and former Chairman of Microsoft Europe)

This leadership style focuses on the potential, strengths and intrinsic needs of employees and on providing the right support to enable people to flourish and excel. The positive outcomes of this type of leadership have been extensively researched, and it has a positive impact on engagement, motivation, well-being, innovation and performance.

A large-scale study by the Corporate Leadership Council showed that a focus on strengths during performance conversations has a significant positive impact on performance (up to a 37% increase), while a focus on weaknesses or areas for improvement resulted in decreased performance!

For example, Deloitte has implemented its new Performance Management system based on this strengths-based approach. Extensive research within the organization showed that the best-performing teams are made up of people who can use their strengths every day (…that the defining characteristic of the very best teams at Deloitte is that they are strengths-oriented…). And more and more companies (such as Cisco and EY) are successfully using strengths-based recruitment.

It makes sense for leaders to make use of employees’ talents, but in practice, it can be difficult to put this into concrete action. Discovering, developing, and utilizing people’s strengths is not something every leader is naturally good at.

To increase productivity, performance, employability, motivation, engagement, and employee well-being, and to attract, develop and retain talent, it is crucial for leaders to recognize and utilize employees’ strengths. Not recognizing and/or underutilizing talent runs the risk of reducing motivation, productivity and performance and causing good employees to leave the organization.

Knowing and utilizing the strengths of different team members also contributes to a sense of trust, appreciation, and connectedness within the group.

If you want teams to perform optimally, you need to create an environment in which demotivation is eliminated and intrinsic motivation is given space. So, create an environment in which colleagues work together based on their own strengths and help each other – this leads to top performance. – Dr. Kilian Wawoe, a.o. HR Management lecturer at VU

“Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.” – Peter Drucker


Leading from your strengths allows you to be more authentic and effective as a leader, this leads to improved performance and success for both you and your team.

 Interested? Let´s work together ⏩

Strengthen Leadership

Unlock Potential, Release Strengths

Stronger Leaders, stronger people, stronger results

Do you want to get the best out of leadership, business and talent?
Strong, people-oriented, effective leadership starts with you!

What distinctive strengths and what aspirations and values form the basis of your leadership? What behaviors are perceived as effective and positive? How do you inspire, motivate, and engage your employees?

Are you looking for ways to enhance your team’s motivation and strengths? Want to know how you can lead your team more effectively in today´s times, so you can create a team that is reslient and equipped to tackle the challenges of the present and the future?

“The job of a leader is to build a complementary team, where every strength is made effective and each weakness is made irrelevant” – Stephen Covey

  • Increased Employee Engagement
  • Better collaboration, building positive relationships
  • A positive and supportive organizational culture
  • Promotes inclusivity and diversity
  • Greater innovation and creativity
  • Easier to attract, develop and retain talent
  • Increased well-being
  • High-performance
About The Author

Kitty Schaap

CoAchieve | Versterk leiderschap en talent vanuit een Strengths-based aanpak. Voor leidinggevenden, HR-professionals, organisaties.

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