Friday, June 11, 2010

SWOT That Leadership

If by chance you've had any business education, you most likely had a marketing class or two.  If so, I'd bet you learned about SWOT Analysis...or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats....S.W.O.T.  In marketing when you have a new product, a revised product or simply an existing product, it's a great way to analyze where it sits in the big picture against your competition.  What are it's strengths?  It's weaknesses?  Are there opportunities not yet explored...ya know, think outside the box.  How about threats to it's existence?  Once written down, it helps establish a path going forward.  

So what in the world is this doing here and what does it have to do with today's blog title?  My undergrad was in business and I got my MBA back in 2006 so I've been lectured to about SWOT and used it multiple times in case studies and real life alike.  I have found lately as I look at leadership opportunities in my military life and leadership that surrounds me in other parts of my life, that this SWOT concept really can apply to just about any topic you throw at it.  Today...Leadership.


I believe that to lead others is to inspire them, empower them, give them direction, enforce the rules/boundaries, and to walk the walk that you expect them to.  A leader should know what it's like to walk in the shoes in which he/she expects to lead and never forget that.  To best do this, I think a SWOT Analysis is in order from the perspective of leader to that person being led.  To best follow my train of thought here...imagine the workplace, although you could apply this anywhere and even as a parent.  My recommendation?  Write these things down and keep in a private/secure personnel folder to reference back to and take notes over time.


S: Strengths
; How well do you know your people?  Do you really listen to them and observe them?  Verbal and the ever-powerful non-verbal cues cannot be ignored.  What are they gifted in?  You must know these things to later identify ignored opportunities.  Strengths aren't just the physical things they can do.  Don't skip over leadership attributes even though they may not technically be one.  Think BIG.

W: Weaknesses
; No one is perfect and every person on the planet has weaknesses.  But why would a leader even care?  Knowing their weaknesses will allow you opportunities for teaching and leading them in areas where they need it.  There isn't a need to say: "These are your weaknesses and this is what I'm going to do about them."  No way!  However, identifying where there is a lot of growth potential can give you a road-map to develop them.  One of these, ironically, could be leadership and you walking the walk and being an inspiration can be a key way to do this.  Again, write this stuff down.

O: Opportunities
; Just like every time Apple releases a new version of the iPhone or when they released the new iPad, they saw opportunities and capitalized on them.  Look back at the strengths previously identified.  Unless you are the most superb leader ever, you see things now in their strengths where opportunity lies.  Right?  Think not only about their path but your organization's mission.  Where else could they be utilized to really "empower" them?  Don't fall into the dreadful trap of cookie-cutter mentality where they have one job and one job only.  "Just do it and keep your mouth shut" is a dangerous path to tread.  That will not have a happy ending.  Strip that away and think BIG picture...  Don't skip anything...write all your ideas down.  The next time you sit down one-on-one with this person, throw a few nuggets their way and see if they perk up at any ideas you have.  You never know...you could really hit a grand slam here.

T: Threats
; Perhaps a tricky one, here.  With every up, there's gotta be some downs.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and in those weaknesses can come forth threats...threats to your organization and/to him/herself.  They could be sabotaging their own career and not even know it.  As a leader, do you stand by and just watch or do you LEAD???  What about to your organization?  Perhaps they are in a position where they are doing more bad than good and a shifting in responsibilities is in order.  If you've already identified the previous strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, then ideas should be poppin' up everywhere just about now.  Also, don't skip this step.  A full SWOT analysis needs to be seen through beginning to end.

Good stuff, eh?  I love this stuff which I guess is a good thing since a great leader is something I aspire to be in every walk of life I travel.  Unfortunately for me, personally, I'm still pursuing this in a few very major areas in life.  In others, it's reality and I love it.  Think big, my friends...in your career, as a parent, in outside organizations that you participate in and are passionate about, or even in your circles of influence.  You can be a great leader for a long time before ever realizing it.


Rely on your own strength of body and soul. Take for your star self-reliance, faith, honesty and industry. Don't take too much advice — keep at the helm and steer your own ship, and remember that the great art of commanding is to take a fair share of the work. Fire above the mark you intend to hit. Energy, invincible determination with the right motive, are the levers that move the world.

Noah Porter

Happy Trails, everyone!

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