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  • Writer's pictureOlivier S.E. Courtois

Know Thyself!

One evening, back from a meeting, a Swedish colleague, Liselotte, asked me a seemingly insignificant question: 'And you, Olivier, what are your five main strengths? A question that only a development consultant would ask, you might think. And you are probably right. The question amused me. And I launched into an incoherent speech going from one point to another and not being able to put my thoughts in order. I concluded by saying: 'not an easy question'.

And yet, I am a professional and I have had the opportunity to think about this question many times. And you, would you be able to answer the question spontaneously. In my previous post, I talked about our values, which guide our decisions and behaviors, and I asked the same question.

Our strengths are an essential component of our energy source and an indicator of the impact we can have on our goals and stakeholders.

Our strengths are a set of points that emanate from our deepest being or that correspond to skills, knowledge or experiences acquired over time.

To become fully aware of our strengths is therefore essential because they ...

... show us the way to follow when facing new challenges. We are always more likely to excel when we rely on our strengths than when we fight against our weaknesses.

... allow us to better understand our weaknesses - which are sometimes 'exaggerated' strengths - and to counteract our weaknesses by reducing the intensity of our strengths. This strategy is more likely to succeed than attacking our weaknesses head-on.

... are more likely to give us the energy and confidence to meet the challenges life throws at us.

Moreover, a deep knowledge of oneself is the main lever of a leader's success. The question therefore deserves to be clarified.

In this respect, as recommended by my colleague at the time, I invite you - if you have not already done so - to read Tom Rath's Strengths-Based Leadership.

This book remains a key source for understanding your own strengths and includes a questionnaire to help you in the process.

Enjoy reading!


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