Chapter 2. Personal Foresight - Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Gallup’s Four Leadership Domains

In Gallup’s model, good management requires a minimum competency across the following four domains, either in the manager or their team. Good leadership begins from this base and involves additional requirements. Gallup surveyed what followers say they need from leaders, and came up with four additional domains in which leaders must excel: Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope. They use the last half of Strengths-Based Leadership to offer strategies for Trust Building, Showing Compassion, Providing Stability, and Creating Hope, and suggest these strategies should be tailored differently to followers that have each of the thirty-four different strengths in the StrengthsFinder model.

1. Strategic Thinking 2. Executing 3. Influencing 4. Relating
Knowing Where to Go” Getting Somewhere” Getting There With Others” Keeping Others on Your Team”
Rath & Conchie (2009)

Rath & Conchie (2009)

If you’ve taken the StrengthsFinder test, as we recommend, find out where your top five strengths fall across the four domains above. Are all your strengths under Strategic thinker? Executor? Influencer? Relationship builder? Are they spread across two, three, or four of these domains? Now where would you self-assess on your ability to generate Trust, show Compassion, provide Stability, and create Hope?

I find the Gallup model a helpful and reasonably evidence-based approach to core leadership traits and skills. But I think it also needs more work. Gallup considers their four core management domains to be sets of strengths or traits. Notice how closely they overlap with Katz and Mumford’s three primary skills domains. Conceptual/Knowledge Skills are key inputs to Strategic Thinking, Technical/Problem Solving Skills are key inputs to Executing. Human/Social Judgment Skills are both Influencing and Relating domains, as such skills can be either instrumental (influencing) or emotional-empathetic (relationship).

Because of this good category convergence, I would propose that we can think about these four core leadership domains as blends of both both traits and skills, and ask how we can build stronger skills in any domain to make up for weaker traits in that domain, both in ourselves and on our teams. This seems to me to be a productive strategy, and it builds an important bridge between the personality traits and the skills research literature for management and leadership.

Gallup has an opportunity to show that this bridge exists, and to improve it. But until Gallup or others does this work, we’ll need to do it ourselves. Here are a few tips, for now.

To improve your Strategic Thinking you can find a number of Strategic Aptitude tests and primers online. To improve your Executing skills, making sure you know how to start a process is important. Procrastination is one common way to fail in this domain. Here’s a brief online procrastination test. There are also scores of books to help with that issue. I expect a study might show procrastinators are good at buying these books but few read them, as that would require physically completing a project, which they seem averse to doing J. If you need to improve your personal execution and accountability skills, Peter Drucker’s Managing Oneself (2005), Nathaniel Branden’s Taking Responsibility (1997), and David Allen’s Getting Things Done (2002), are three excellent books to help you get results. I’ve read all three more than once, and they motivate me every time. But even more important for execution than reading a book is finding a work environment where you will get daily practice and feedback on your craft. There are a few tests for Influencing online, and Cialdini’s Influence (2008) is a good guide. The Emotional Intelligence Appraisal can measure your Relating abilities, and it includes both traits and skills.

We have listed Gallup’s four domains above in a suggested priority order for leadership and self-development. Consider how strengths in Strategic thinking, the first cluster, are critical for both personal and organizational strategic foresight and prioritization. Strengths in the second cluster make you motivated to execute your own or your team’s foresight ideas. Some foresight professionals have all their personality strengths in the first cluster, and are naturally poor executors. But without competency in Executing, they tend to overthink and underact, and to generate too many clever ideas that never bear fruit. Do you know anyone like that? We are all guilty of this at times. Developing at least average proficiency at both strategic thinking and executing skills, at least in your personal life, will make you an effective individual, and potentially a good leader. Thus the first two clusters are keys to self-leadership.

Organizational leadership, the next step in leadership activity, requires competency (traits and skills) in the third cluster (Influencing), as that competency will help you motivate others and accomplish things larger than yourself. Competency in the fourth cluster (Relating) will keep your team from leaving you due to poor interpersonal skills. If you also model and teach trustworthiness and relationship building with your team, this cluster will keep them working in sync, rather than at odds, or going behind each other’s backs.

By talking about these four leadership domains as both traits and skills, we acknowledge that leaders, and by the same reasoning foresight practitioners, can be both born and made. You may be born with traits that incline you to be a leader, or you may learn skills and gain experiences that will make you a better leader.

I think foresight follows the same dynamic. In my experience at least, there seems to be no one dominant path, nature or nurture, to either leadership or foresight activities. If you lack strengths in any of these clusters, try to figure out which skills will support your abilities in each cluster, and learn them. Find a trusted colleague who is strong where you are weak, and learn how to take leadership on those issues from your colleague when you fall short, as you surely will. Finally, remember that strong skills can support your weaker traits. For one example, if you are naturally weak in the execution cluster, get good at the habit of using task management or journaling tools, a topic we will discuss shortly.

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