How to Identify Your Leadership Secret Sauce in Less Than 20 Minutes

Published on
July 10, 2017
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Leadership is one of the most written about topics in business. And trustworthiness always appears on the top of the list.

But what about other characteristics of great leaders?

I’ve spent over twenty-five years working with leaders, and the greatest attribute of a powerful leader might surprise you.

It’s self-awareness.

As a leader how you handle situations, how you interact, what activities you say yes or no to will have an impact far beyond your own life. And you cannot do that effectively unless you know yourself.

But self-awareness can feel amorphous and vast. We need a map and a compass in order to learn and leverage our own potency as leaders. Below is that compass. These five simple guideposts are potent catalysts for self-discovery.

#1. Know Your “Know Hows”

What do you know how to do?

I am not asking what you know, but your knowledge of processes. Make your own list using the example below as a guideline.

I know how to…

  • Build a strong team
  • Deal with conflict
  • Negotiate
  • Manage high performers
  • Manage a budget

You may be surprised by all you know how to do. The how isn’t specific to your industry. It marks you as a leader in any field.

#2. Know What Energizes You

What energizes you? What are you doing when you find yourself lost in the pleasure of an activity? Try filling in the blank below:

I love: _____________________________

Here are some examples: Figuring out logistical problems, bringing a group together for collaboration, designing systems and processes that increase efficiency, crafting new ways of approaching old challenges, and idea creation/big thinking.

Ideally you will spend more time doing things that energize rather than deplete you.

#3. Know Your Talents

What are you naturally good at? What comes easily to you? When something comes easily, we often don’t think of it as a talent—oh that’s nothing. Since our talents are frequently hiding in plain sight how do we find them?

To find your talents, try the following:

  • Mark the activities in your “Know How” list that energize you and compare them to the actual list of what energizes you—your talent lies in that confluence.
  • Ask your friends what you’re good at (don’t be modest, just take it in!)
  • Compare the lists. Are there commonalities? Were you using some version of this talent your whole life? Were you always the one getting the gang together? Did people always come to you for problem solving?

Look for people who are energized by what you find depleting and maximize your calendar and commitments, so you are maximizing your talents + your energy. If you model that and strive to help others do the same, you will change lots of lives.

#4. Know When Your Strengths Are Getting in the Way

By the time we are in leadership positions, most of us have developed preferences about how we show up. Fill in the blank below to find your strengths:

I am always ____________.

Here are some examples: Persistent, independent, hard-working, competitive, organized, dependable.

Is it possible you are overusing any of these strengths? If you can only be competitive, you may discourage others from trying their best because they don’t want to “beat the boss.” Are you always organized? You may miss the fresh or creative idea that comes from letting things flow.

So know and use your strengths—and be flexible in applying them. Turn always into sometimes.

#5. Know Your People

Research suggests that a huge percentage of workers are disengaged from their work. Help your people identify their own secret sauce. Encourage them to go through these same sets of questions, and make sure you give them work that leverages their talents and energies. When you do, they will give you their best effort. Fantastic leaders get oversized results from good people.

Keep this list with you for future reference!

Self-awareness is an incredible asset in business, and it is one of the most effective ways to create success. If you keep this list of questions with you, you can refer to them anytime you are wanting to use your knowledge, talents, energy and strengths to create incredible impact as a leader and influencer in your world.


Elizabeth Crook is the CEO of Orchard Advisors, where entrepreneurs, business and community leaders, and philanthropists turn when they want to Live Large and grow both their enterprises and their impact. A mother, grandmother, and ardent hiker, she lives on Music Row in Nashville. Elizabeth believes that if we all loved our work, we could change the world! Her first book, Live Large: The Achiever’s Guide to What’s Next, was published May 2017 by GreenLeaf Book Group.