If I asked you “What’s your superpower,” would you be able to articulate it? John Henry, the billionaire who bought the Boston Globe this month, would. What does a farmer turned sports team owner know about running a newspaper? He knows his superpower and how to put it to work making a billion dollars in the process (Forbes pegs his net worth at $1.5 billion). Knowing our superpower is a very important step to not just creating a strong personal brand, but also for carving a career path where we create tremendous value for ourselves and others.
John Henry, a farmer’s son from Illinois, is a college drop-out who studied philosophy and spent his early youth in a rock band. All this changed at the age of 25 when his father died and he had to take over the family farm. He didn’t have a knack for farming but did use his “superpower,” his creative genius with numbers and statistics, to predict commodities futures, making his first millions. He then brought this same knack for numbers to turn around the Red Sox by understanding which players were undervalued. According to NPR there was a time he was even banned from the blackjack tables in Las Vegas. He is planning to use his genius at creating new value from undervalued assets at the Boston Globe.
As leaders our biggest potential is realized from knowing and growing our superpowers. In my executive coaching and speaking work, it’s unfortunately also the biggest missed opportunity I see. Leveraging our superpowers is the only way we thrive and create value for ourselves and others. Even those of us who are self-aware and know our strengths and weaknesses, very rarely intentionally carve out a career path that is based on leveraging our superpowers. Certainly not enough organizations pay attention to this in their succession plans.
Here’s a quick exercise to discover and leverage yours:
1) What are your strengths? Take the time now to write down five things that you do really well. What do people always ask you for help on? What have you heard from feedback you have received? There are a couple of assessments I recommend to my executive coaching clients (StandOut and Strengthsfinders 2.0) that help you get started.
2) Which strengths bring you joy and create unique value? There are some things that we do really well that bring us tremendous joy. They put us in flow. We have achieved a level of mastery in these strengths that makes us unique and successful. These are our superpowers. For Oprah it’s her way to connect with others and ask great questions. For Warren Buffet, it’s his uncanny ability to pick stocks. For Richard Branson, it’s his ability to break paradigms through unconventional thinking. What’s yours?
3) How are you honing and developing your superpower? Once you have articulated it, it’s time to pay attention to it, to develop it, to spend more time in this sweet spot, play and experiment with it. Too many of us spend too much time focused on correcting our weaknesses or trying to be perfect. None of these billionaires are perfect. Why should you be?
4) How can you design your job or career path around your superpower? How do you bring more of this superpower into your work day? Find projects at work where you can intentionally bring this superpower into play.
5) Help others discover their superpower We are engaged, energized and more successful when we can bring more of our superpower to work. The same goes for people around us and those we lead, making our teams more engaged and successful. So be on the lookout for others’ superpower and let them know about it.
A version of this post first appeared on my Forbes.com blog.
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