3 Keys To Unlocking Your Leadership Potential

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In 2011, Cam Newton would sulk on the bench whenever the Carolina Panther’s defense was on the field. Eventually, Newton was advised by veteran players that he could be more effective as a leader if he used his personality to uplift the team. Newton took the assessment to heart…

In 2011, Cam Newton would sulk on the bench whenever the Carolina Panther’s defense was on the field. Eventually, Newton was advised by veteran players that he could be more effective as a leader if he used his personality to uplift the team. Newton took the assessment to heart and made several major adjustments. Now—less than a week before his first Super Bowl—he’s not only the dynamic leader of the NFL’s hottest team, but a model of character for the entire Panther nation.

As leaders, we all want to win big and go places with our teams. But many leaders have never had an honest evaluation of who they are. The ugly truth for most teams is that they have under-trained leaders who dish-out orders and assignments, but never take the time to gather an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. And year-after-year, these same leaders miss the opportunity to improve in key areas.

Brad Black, CEO of HUMANeX Ventures, has become a mentor to me as I’ve worked to grow. His team provides laser-accurate leadership surveys for some of the most successful teams in sports and business. Black considers professional assessments a “foundation of development” and essential for any leader desiring to be great. After engaging me as the keynote speaker at several HUMANeX events, I asked if he would put me through the paces of a deep professional assessment of my leadership skill, analyzing my responses, reactions to situations and worldviews.

We did so a couple of months ago. (Talk about a wake-up call, both positively and negatively!)

My takeaways:

1. Assessments provide a context to compare ourselves.

Before Black’s assessment, I could list the things about myself that I thought were a little strange, unique, or tightly-wound…but I had no context to frame myself. After analyzing my responses, Black showed me where my personality and characteristics all fell inside the bell curve of other entrepreneurs, leaders and athletes—even the traits I thought were weird. I no longer saw my attributes as odd because I realized that other really successful people in my space were wired the same way.

“Context matters,” Black said. “If you were told that you were the Olympian of your chosen profession, then you’d have a context to base your strengths. And all leaders should have a strong sense of who they are before they attempt any developmental venture.”

2. Great overviews expose weaknesses—and hidden talents!

Along with my strengths, the HUMANeX assessment gave me an overview of my weaknesses and underdeveloped skills. The descriptions were frighteningly specific, but I was pleased to see exactly what I needed to work on.

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“How are you ever going to develop something if you don’t even know you have it in you?” Black said. “Many talents are latent, and we live in a world of very few assessments that help people understand who they are in a relevant role.”

Black is right. Truthfully, no one really wants to hear that they are bad at something. But by not knowing—or avoiding—a true assessment of our undeveloped self, we miss the opportunity to develop new strengths. Great winners embrace these moments because they know that any advantage is a competitive one.

3. Assessments help create an elite environment.

Black told me that assessments not only help leaders hone in on strengths and weaknesses, but are great resources for developing high-performance teams. “By studying an evaluation of the exemplars in a profession, managers can compare and contrast the leadership integrity of new recruits,” he said.

The result: A leader doesn’t have to go out on faith with a new hire, but can pinpoint the traits that benefit their organizational culture and then select a candidate that matches—saving time and money for everyone involved.

Additionally, Black found that A-caliber employees respond favorably to pre-employee screening. “Whether it’s medical students, teachers, sales, or student athletes—the best respond to assessments in a different way than the average,” he said. “Winners can’t wait to go through to the challenge because they are confident in their skills, abilities, and are excited at the thought of working with the best every day.”

Having a true assessment of ourselves can be intimidating. But every leader should know where they—and their team—stand on skills, strengths, weaknesses and latent talents. Black said that understanding who you are is a “gift to yourself” and can make you a more capable leader.

I am absolutely a work in progress. Fortunately, the path just became a little clearer.

Ask yourself this: How much better would you or your team perform if you knew your abilities and weaknesses to the highest level of accuracy? How would that impact your company culture? Consistent winners start with themselves before they attempt to change the world. (And you should too!)

Have you ever discovered a hidden strength that changed the way you view yourself? I’d love to hear your story!

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