Leadership behavior can have a big influence on the quality of the workplace, either bad or good. By helping people to play to their strengths and find more purpose at work, employee engagement and performance will increase.

As a leader you will have to meander around the challenges of your work. Every day you are dealing with dualities, with paradoxes. Effective leadership is an art; balancing between management and self-management, between controlling and letting go, guiding, coaching, inspiring and connecting, requires a lot from managers and leaders.

An effective manager motivates her or his team, shows empathy, is trustworthy, has a great deal of self-insight and is open to feedback. How effective you are in your leadership role also depends on the strength of your team and on environmental factors, for example the organizational culture.

Finding and achieving the right balance between a ‘hard business’ approach focused on results, efficiency, profitability and control, and a ‘soft, people-oriented’ approach, which involves facilitating, developing and stimulating strengths, self-reliance, commitment and involvement of people, requires a new kind of leadership.

People and talent-oriented leadership

Some people make full use of their talents and allow others to flourish. While others do not pay any (or insufficient) attention to their own and other talents and thus leave potential unused.

Talent-oriented leadership puts people first. It implies believing in the potential, in the power of people and in stimulating self-management and personal leadership. 

Recognizing, developing and optimally deploying talents provides positive energy and intrinsic motivation. It strengthens self-awareness and self-management and leads to better performance and commitment to the organization. By consciously deploying talents, talents are developed into strengths; ‘talent in action’.

The most successful managers don’t lead from a position of command and control, they bring out the best of their people, they know what their own and what their employee’s strengths are. People thrive when their strengths are recognized, appreciated and utilized, when they are being coached and get ample opportunities to develop. It builds confidence, increases self-esteem and people take more ownership.

When organizations pay more attention to diversity and the unique talents of employees, this will have a positive effect is on the motivation, engagement, performance and employability of employees. People who can use their strengths at work perform better and are more resilient. In addition, they are more authentic, more involved, creative and inspired.

As a leader/manager you have a major influence on the productivity, involvement, performance and motivation of employees. You are also an important role model, which is why awareness of your leadership style and the effect of your behavior on employees is of great importance. Only when you know yourself well, with all your talents and performance risks, can you also better recognize and use the strengths of your employees.

Of all the factors in the work environment, the immediate supervisor has the greatest impact on employee motivation and involvement. According to Gallup’s worldwide leadership research, the best managers make the following 2 assumptions:

  • Each person’s talents are enduring and unique
  • Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or greatest strength.

Effective Leadership

There are numerous different approaches to leadership, many of which prescribe precisely what qualities leaders must have to be effective. But recent studies show that effective leaders are often very different. They achieve success in different ways, depending on the unique strengths and qualities they possess and how effectively they use them to achieve results. There is no blueprint for good leadership, trying to become good at everything ultimately makes you less effective.

Other demands are placed on managers, with more attention being paid to, for example; emotional intelligence, empathy and coaching skills. Self-awareness is of crucial importance, strong leadership starts with strong personal leadership, by leading from personal strengths you get the best out of yourself and others and you get more satisfaction from your work and relationships.

Strengths in overdrive

Self-knowledge is essential, first of all you need to know and cultivate your own strengths. Leaders often find it remarkably difficult to state their strengths themselves. And discovering your strengths is not enough, you also need to know how to use and dose them. Research on derailed leaders indicates that these leaders exaggerated their strengths (strengths in overdrive) and were not corrected in this. Self-assurance can, for example, turn into megalomaniacal behavior and courage can turn into reckless behavior with all the negative consequences that can be expected.

A one-sided focus on strengths is also not wise. You must take into account the fact that a strength can also become a weak point, a performance risk (such as an exaggerated strength | strength in overdrive). You achieve real lasting results when you use your strengths in the right context and to the right degree, in a productive way that works well for you to achieve your goals in your personal and professional life in a meaningful way.

The ability of people to live according to their full potential

Do you want to get more out of your leadership? Lead with style, your own style, in your own way. If you want to get the best out of your team, you first have to get the best out of yourself. Good leadership starts with strong personal leadership. It is important that you are aware of your own values, assumptions, pitfalls, strengths and weaknesses, your vision and expectations. By working on your own growth and development you will also encourage others to do the same.

According to Stephen Covey, personal leadership is mainly about having faith in one’s own abilities, responsibility, honesty and cooperation. “The 8th characteristic of effective (personal) leadership, according to Covey, is the ability of people to live according to their full potential (their” inner voice”). To find your inner voice you need to know what your talents are. You also need the freedom to discover and use your own talents (for example, the organization you work for will facilitate further development of your talents).

Strengths-based (transformational, talent-oriented) leadership increases employee engagement. The positive outcomes of this type of leadership have been extensively investigated. This style of leadership results in more trust, well-being, connectedness, involvement and higher performance, innovation and higher customer satisfaction. Increase your leadership performance by working from authenticity, clear goals, personal strengths, values and vision.

The context is also important, sometimes a certain leadership style does not suit the organization (culture) for example. Clients that participated in my leadership programs sometimes found out that they were losing a lot of energy at work because the balance between their own aspirations, personal values and strengths and the demands and the culture of the organization were out of balance. This can be a big problem because you cannot be your authentic self at work.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steve Jobs

Leadership development

Good leaders are able to value and optimize the potential of people. They increase engagement, motivation, productivity and performance. With the right guidance and insights, you can grow in your leadership role.

You can develop leadership, but the focus is usually on acquiring competencies and technical skills, and that is not enough. According to research, organizations worldwide invest around € 37 billion in leadership training, so a lot of money, but it does not yield much.

The development of managers and leaders is still mainly approached as working on weaknesses and improving competencies. Many organizations offer training courses in the field of conflict management, giving feedback, time management and so on. This is also important but that does not really ensure that a manager / leader can work from his or her strengths and it also does not result in strengthening the team and organization, increasing employee engagement and happiness at work.

Personal leadership

Leadership starts with yourself, with knowing what you stand for, what your aspirations, values, motives and strengths are. What vision do you have regarding leadership? How would you like to lead? How can you get the most out of yourself and your team? How do you want to be perceived as a manager, which exemplary behavior fits in with that? What is your “leadership brand”?

You can’t manage others if you don’t manage yourself first. – Peter Drucker


Several studies show that most leaders do not have an accurate self-image. They often find themselves inspiring and people-oriented, but employees think very differently about this. That is why 360degree feedback and leadership coaching is of great importance.

According to former Google CEO and chairman Eric Schmidt, The one thing people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them. A coach really, really helps.” Coaches help professionals realize when and why they engage in behaviors, which helps stimulate long-term behavior change.

The rapidly changing world in which we live and work, requires leaders and managers who have a great deal of self-knowledge, are positive, solution-oriented and are able to motivate people and optimize potential.

Employees need more recognition, attention, connection, meaning, self-realization and the deployment of their talents. They do not want to tick off a list of acquired competencies and receive a score after a performance appraisal interview. This is not conducive to involvement, intrinsic motivation and empowerment.

What influence does your leadership style and behavior have on the organization, on your team? Which style and what kind of behavior is desirable to achieve your own goals and the organizational goals in an effective way? Would you like to get more out of your leadership? Do you want to develop and deploy your full potential?

Do you want to see your employees grow by utilizing their strengths more? Do you want to lead more in a talent-oriented way? Want to get the best out of yourself and your team?

Research shows increasingly that using our strengths at work is more likely to lead to increased performance, positive energy, confidence and engagement. The central premise of the strengths-based development approach is that focusing on strengths is a more powerful way of accelerating learning and performance in organizations because it unlocks people’s talents, passion and energy, helping them to achieve excellence in areas more aligned with their natural strengths and personality.

About The Author

Kitty Schaap

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

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