How to Create a SWOT Analysis on Your Own Leadership

10 min read

In the business world, “born leaders” are few and far between — for most people, leadership is a learned skill. Behind every great manager is a career path littered with self-insight, personal development, and constant improvement.

If you want to become a better leader, this is great news. It means that with consistent action, you can improve your skills and grow into an effective and inspiring leader.

Not sure where to start? Borrow a business tool: the SWOT analysis. This structured framework provides a way to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Businesses use the SWOT analysis when they’re planning strategic moves. You can repurpose the same framework to conduct an honest self-assessment of your leadership skills and abilities. It’s also a way to find opportunities for growth and see how you stack up to colleagues.

After completing the SWOT process, you’ll come away with strategic action items to take your career to the next level.

When and Why to Conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis

Use the personal SWOT analysis any time you’re lacking direction or planning a major professional move. The results help you gain clarity, so it’s easier to make smart career decisions.

You might SWOT yourself when:

  • You want to improve your leadership, but you’re not sure where to start
  • You have limited time for personal development, and you want to spend it wisely
  • You’re searching for the next step in your career
  • You’re competing for a promotion with colleagues
  • You want to build self-awareness and check your assumptions
  • You’re preparing for a performance evaluation or a job interview

If you’re honest in your personal inventory, it can have a transformative effect on your professional life. The analysis does four key things to benefit your career:

  • Exposes the skill and experience gaps between your current position and future goals
  • Clarifies strengths that you can use to further your career and improve your next performance review
  • Identifies opportunities for improvement in your leadership style
  • Enables you to make a strategic action plan

Do you feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of leadership courses and resources on the market? The SWOT analysis can help you narrow down the options and choose the one that will have the biggest impact.

First Things First: What’s Involved in a Traditional SWOT Analysis?

Before you perform a SWOT analysis on yourself, it’s helpful to understand how the tool is typically used in business. The process is simple. Company leaders make four lists:

Strengths

Strengths are the things that give a company an advantage over competitors. Some strengths are tangible: skilled employees, a state-of-the-art production facility, or cutting-edge software. Others — such as brand awareness, intellectual property, and employee loyalty — are intangible.

Weaknesses

Weaknesses are the opposite of strengths — they’re the areas where competitors have the advantage. Some common weak points are tumultuous supplier relationships, outdated technology, or inexperienced employees.

Opportunities

An opportunity is an external opening or chance that can help a company be more competitive. This might include an unmet customer need, increased demand due to market trends, or leads to potential customers.

Threats

Threats are the external factors that negatively affect a company. They’re obstacles that stand in the way of business goals. Some common threats are new competitors, problems with the supply chain, or a lack of qualified applicants.

How to Use the SWOT Analysis Tool to Assess Your Own Leadership Skills

As a leader, you can repurpose the four SWOT areas into a self-assessment tool. Instead of analyzing a business, you’ll evaluate yourself. To help, we’ve created a template that walks you through the process. As you work through the steps of the SWOT analysis, write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t worry about using complete sentences.

Keep in mind that self-evaluation isn’t always easy. To help you think objectively, we’ve included a list of questions for each step. Pay special attention to the questions that feel too personal or painful — they’re striking a nerve for a reason.

Assess Your Strengths as a Leader

List all of the things that make you an effective leader. Tangible strengths are things you can quantify, such as years of education or industry experience. Intangible strengths are more ephemeral: a positive attitude, natural charm, or a willingness to go the extra mile.

Your true strengths are often things that come naturally to you — so naturally, in fact, that you might assume everyone has them. These are often your best qualities as a leader.

To find them, ask yourself these questions:

  • What things do customers thank me for?
  • What am I good at?
  • When do colleagues defer to me?
  • What tasks or topic areas prompt colleagues to seek my input?
  • What compliments do I hear most often?
  • When do colleagues turn to me for help?
  • Which of my tasks and responsibilities feel the easiest?
  • What do I bring to my job that’s unique to me?
  • Do colleagues depend on me to amplify their ideas?
  • Do colleagues approach me with ideas for collaboration?
  • Have I received any unexpected types of praise?

If you’re stuck, ask a trusted colleague, friend, or former boss for help. Often, other people see strengths that aren’t obvious to you.

Identify Your Weaknesses as a Leader

Now, it’s time to list the things that weaken your leadership. Write down both measurable and intangible shortcomings. In some cases, it can help to compare yourself to a colleague or professional contact at your level or higher.

This part of your personal SWOT analysis demands unflinching honesty. It’s hard to examine your own weaknesses, but that discomfort leads to growth. Take heart: no one else will see what you write.

These questions can help you think about areas for improvement:

  • What areas of my job feel boring or stagnant?
  • Are my results falling short of projections?
  • Am I avoiding specific tasks or responsibilities at work?
  • Could I be more respectful and empathetic toward employees?
  • When do I tend to procrastinate?
  • Are there areas I can improve?
  • Is there high turnover in my team?
  • Have employees stopped bringing me ideas for change and innovation?
  • When was the last time I refused a challenging task for fear of the outcome?
  • Do I feel afraid to fail?
  • Am I delegating effectively to my team?
  • Do I micromanage one or more of my employees?
  • What was my last professional development activity?
  • Am I frequently flustered, frustrated, or angry at work?
  • Do employees frequently ask for clarification on emails, project briefs, or instructions?
  • Does my schedule feel out of control?
  • Do I trust in my employees' expertise and abilities?
  • Am I sharing credit with the team?

Find Opportunities for Growth and Development

Opportunities are the chances you have to improve your leadership and further your career. Some opportunities will be obvious — you could apply for a promotion or take on new challenges at work.

Other opportunities are rooted in your dreams, interests, and desires. To gain clarity in these areas, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I feel drawn to a specific department, job, or topic?
  • What topics spark my interest or curiosity at work?
  • What tasks make me lose track of time?
  • What qualities and practical abilities do I admire in my colleagues?
  • What qualities and practical abilities do I admire in my supervisor and company leaders?
  • Are there higher-level positions that sound interesting to me?
  • Are there any upcoming projects that would stretch my skills and abilities?
  • Is there an upcoming industry conference that will expand my skills and professional network?
  • Would I benefit from getting or becoming a mentor?
  • What skills do I need to take the next step in my career?
  • Are there new ways to harness my employees' strengths and skills?

If you need more ideas, try these strategies:

  • Compare yourself to high-performing colleagues and find ways to match and exceed their skills, experience, or personal qualities.
  • Look at your list of weaknesses and identify ways to turn them into strengths.
  • Write down your dream job, and look up the required skills and experience for that position.

Assess Internal and External Threats to Your Leadership

When you’re assessing your own leadership, threats are the things that are standing in your way or holding you back. When you understand these factors, you’ll be able to adapt, adjust, and overcome.

These questions can help you identify both internal and external threats:

  • Is there anyone in the company who’s gunning for your job?
  • Do you feel undermined by an employee, peer, or superior?
  • Are there any upcoming market shifts that could make your position or department obsolete?
  • Is new technology taking over part of your job responsibilities?
  • Do customers or clients still have a need for your core competencies?
  • Are you experiencing the warning signs of professional burnout?
  • Do you feel bored or disengaged with your company or industry?
  • Is there any chance that your company will restructure or shut down in the near future?
  • Is your personal life affecting your performance at work?
  • Do you have the time to manage your workload effectively?
  • Are any of your subordinates more qualified or experienced?
  • Do you struggle to pinpoint the reason for your success?

How to Use a Personal Leadership SWOT Analysis

The hard part is over — you’ve gotten through the introspective part of the SWOT analysis. Now, it’s time to put the information to use.

  • Eliminate redundant items. Look for topics that are similar, and combine them into a single point.
  • Prioritize each list. Which items are the most time-sensitive? Which items have the biggest impact on your leadership and career?
  • Identify strategic pairs. Combine items from different lists to create solutions. If one of your weaknesses is outdated programming skills, you might pair it with an opportunity to join an exciting new coding project at work.
  • Create action steps. Identify realistic actions you can take for each strategic pair. If you have weak delegation skills and a threat of professional burnout, your action item might be to delegate 10% of your workload to subordinates.

After you go through this process, you should have a list of action steps. Now, do another round of prioritization. Rank the list in terms of feasibility, importance, and time.

Don’t get too hung up on practicality — if you feel particularly excited about a specific action item, make it a top priority. It might be just the thing you need to re-energize your career.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Personal Leadership SWOT Analysis

How is a SWOT Analysis Different from a Performance Review?

The SWOT analysis and the performance review are two different professional assessment tools. A performance review is a formal process where your supervisor assesses your work and offers feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. The session might also evaluate your progress toward corporate growth objectives or revenue targets. These reviews usually happen once or twice a year.

A SWOT analysis is an assessment you do by yourself and for yourself. It also covers your strengths and weaknesses, but in a way that’s informative rather than punitive. The goal of the process is to create strategic actions to improve and grow.

Topically, there is some overlap between the two assessments. The difference is the end goal — a performance review focuses on how you serve the company, while a SWOT analysis helps you find ways to serve your career.

What are some examples of personal threats in a SWOT analysis?

The Threats section of a personal SWOT analysis can be challenging, especially if you’re happy and successful in your job. For leaders, some common threats are:

  • Your company’s unwillingness to accommodate your needs, such as parenthood or a desire to expand your skills
  • Increasing competition for promotions and high-level jobs, either in the company or the industry
  • Layoffs or recessions that could eliminate your job
  • Downward trends in salaries for higher-level positions
  • Dwindling customer demand in your specific expertise area
  • Lack of high-performing candidates for job openings on your team
  • New laws and regulations that affect your department

Improve Your Leadership with a Personal SWOT Analysis

When you’re ready to take the next step in your career, clarity is key. After performing a SWOT analysis on your own leadership, you’ll have the information to move forward with confidence.

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