How to Develop Your Own Leadership Skills

Kim Mays
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In the working world, it’s part of the deal that when you rise in the hierarchy, you eventually end up managing others. On top of the skills that helped you move up, you’ll be focusing on a new set of skills that, all together, make up your ability to provide leadership.

In a CIO article, Rich Hein discusses several characteristics of “great” IT leaders. In IT, the technology, and often the goals of projects, change and evolve quickly. To be able to pivot and keep your team on track and fully engaged takes a special type of manager. Someone flexible, knowledgeable and reliable will go far in leadership. However, leaders also need to have high emotional intelligence and be able to know their own limitations and, of course, their weaknesses. Often, skills we are lacking can be worked on and built up, but what about those skills that we don’t realize we have?

In their book “Hidden Strengths: Unleashing the Crucial Leadership Skills You Already Have,” Thuy Sindell, executive coach, and Milo Sindell, consultant for many tech companies, have discovered that we each have underdeveloped skills that can be our “richest resources for growth.”

The Sindells, a married couple, have come up with 28 skills that they feel are necessary for professional leadership success. In their book, the Sindells explain that our natural strengths make up about 20 percent of our abilities. Weaknesses are more like the bottom 10 percent of our skills and we will likely never be very good at these things. However, the middle 70 percent are where our hidden strengths lie. These are skills that we have not excelled nor failed at, and these are the skills that we can most easily develop.

As the Sindells explain, the middle pool of skills can be a great way to increase your leadership abilities:

Despite being the largest pool, the skills in the middle are often overlooked by people who are too busy relying on their strengths or working on improving their weaknesses; that’s why we call them “hidden.” In reality, with focus and practice, Hidden Strengths are your most powerful tool for ongoing professional development. To succeed in a dynamic world, people must continuously strive to increase their abilities throughout their lifetimes.

An excerpt from the Sindells’ book can be found in our IT Downloads area. In this segment, you will find the introduction and chapter 1: About Hidden Strengths.

In the first chapter, the Sindells explain that it’s important to identify your middle range skills so that you can begin to work on them. They direct readers to their website,, for an assessment to help identify these skills. After discovering which skills are your hidden skills, you must then decide which ones to focus on. To help you make that decision, you should look at your own professional goals and existing leadership qualities. Finding what strengths you may need to achieve your leadership goals will help you choose which strengths you should enhance and develop right away.

The book makes some interesting points about why we shouldn’t focus too much on our weaknesses. True, if a skill is something that you have never been good at, it can take “a tremendous amount of effort to move the needle to a point where you can demonstrate improvement.”

For workers who are interested in developing skills to further their career goals, this book provides guidance and an eye-opening look at how we use and develop our skills.

Kim Mays has been editing and writing about IT since 1999. She currently tackles the topics of small to midsize business technology and introducing new tools for IT. Follow Kim on Google+ or Twitter.

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