top of page

Developing Your Unique Leadership Style: Through SWOT Analysis

Hi, I’m Barbara May. My journey has taken me from being a national-level gymnast and award-winning coach to a stand-up comedian, executive director, and leadership trainer. Along this diverse path, I’ve learned that leadership is an intensely personal journey, reflecting our unique experience, values, and skills.

Today, let’s dive into discovering your “Leadership Style” through a tool I found invaluable: SWOT Analysis.

SWOT Analysis: Navigating Your Leadership Path

SWOT Analysis, traditionally a business tool, is equally powerful for personal growth in leadership. It helps dissect your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, offering a comprehensive view of your leadership abilities.

Learning from a Spectrum of Leaders

A unique application of SWOT in leadership is analyzing leaders you admire and those you find less effective. It's not about imitation but understanding different leadership styles and finding what aligns with your own values and objectives.

Consider leaders you admire. What strengths do they possess? How do they seize opportunities? Similarly, reflect on leaders you believe are less effective. Understand their weaknesses and the threats they failed to navigate. This dual analysis provides a rich learning ground for turning obstacles into opportunities. It’s not about imitation, but rather about understanding a spectrum of leadership styles.

As part of my Stumbling Blocks philosophy, I encourage leaders and teams to learn from every experience. By taking a close look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, you can identify potential stumbling blocks in your path and transform them into building blocks towards developing your unique leadership style.

Deep Diving into SWOT: Uncovering Your Leadership Building Blocks

Now, let's break down the SWOT components and explore how they can be integral to your leadership journey.

Strengths - Unleashing Your Inner Leader

Harnessing Your Unique Abilities

In leadership, strengths are your superpowers. My experience as a program manager at the Horizon Gymnastics Club from 1988-1994 perfectly illustrates this. Tasked with growing the club's membership, I leaned into my strength in coaching and program development. By training coaches and developing programs, we grew the membership from 140 to 400. This experience reinforced the idea that focusing on your strengths can have a transformative effect, uplifting those around you and achieving remarkable goals.

Building Blocks for Strengths:

  • Identify Your Strengths: Reflect on your skills and past successes.

  • Apply Your Strengths: Use them in your current role.

  • Empower Your Team: Like I did at Horizon Gymnastics Club, use your strengths to uplift your team.

  • Track Your Impact: Monitor how your strengths are contributing to your team's and your own success.

By recognizing and harnessing your strengths, you not only enhance your leadership style but also inspire and elevate those around you. As we’ve seen from the Horizon Gymnastics Club story, when a leader focuses on their innate abilities, the potential for growth is boundless.

Weaknesses - Transforming Challenges into Strengths

Embracing and Growing from Weaknesses

Acknowledging and addressing weaknesses is as crucial as leveraging strengths. My transition to motivational speaking serves as an example. Despite my coaching success and a 3M Coach Award, incorporating humor into my speeches was a significant challenge. I embarked on a decade-long journey into the world of comedy, even performing in the longest stand-up comedy show in history in 2002, as recorded by Guinness World Records. This experience transformed a glaring weakness into a key strength in my leadership and motivational speaking.

Building Blocks for Weaknesses:

  • Acknowledge and Address: Be open about areas for improvement.

  • Seek Development: Look for ways to grow your skills.

  • Set Goals: Approach your weaknesses with a plan and milestones.

  • Reflect and Adapt: Always evaluate and adjust your methods.

My personal experience underscores a critical aspect of leadership: the courage to face and transform our weaknesses. It’s not just about overcoming a hurdle; it’s about turning it into a unique strength that enhances your leadership style.

Barbara May celebrating with racquetball champion, Coby Iwaasa, at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto
Celebrating with Coby Iwaasa at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto

Opportunities - Seizing Moments for Innovation

Capitalizing on Opportunities

Recognizing and seizing opportunities is key to dynamic leadership. My tenure as the Executive Director of the Alberta Racquetball Association from 2008 - 2016 exemplifies this. Though new to racquetball, I spotted an opportunity to innovate with a "Racquetball Practice Program." Collaborating with former Canadian National Champion, Kris Odegard, we developed a comprehensive program enhancing both player and coach skills and abilities. The program's success was phenomenal, with our videos gaining over 500,000 views on YouTube and contributing to the development of Alberta's own, Coby Iwaasa, who was a bronze medalist at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada and a two-time silver medalist at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Building Blocks for Opportunities:

  • Identify Growth Areas: Be on the lookout for new avenues of potential.

  • Collaborate with Experts: Work with others to add value and expertise.

  • Innovate and Implement: Embrace new approaches and ideas.

  • Evaluate and Reflect: Assess the impact of your initiatives.

As my experience with the Alberta Racquetball Association illustrates, recognizing and seizing opportunities can lead to groundbreaking developments. It’s about having the vision to see potential and the courage to act on it, qualities essential for dynamic leadership.

Threats - Navigating Through Adversity

Leading with Resilience

Effective leadership also involves navigating challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant threat to my training business, prompting me to adapt and accept a contract position at Purolator. This required mastering new material and the art of online teaching, a shift that not only challenged but also enriched my skill set.

Building Blocks for Navigating Threats:

  • Stay Agile: Embrace new challenges and learn.

  • Innovate in Adversity: Find new ways to tackle challenges.

  • Maintain Resilience: Keep a positive outlook despite obstacles.

  • Use Challenges as Learning Opportunities: Every difficulty can teach you something new.

My journey through the pandemic highlights a crucial aspect of leadership – the ability to turn threats into opportunities for growth. By staying flexible, embracing new learning, and maintaining resilience, leaders can navigate through the toughest of times and emerge stronger.

Wrapping Up: Your Leadership, Your Story

Leadership is a continuous journey of self-discovery, growth, and adaptation. It's about using your strengths, working on your weaknesses, seizing opportunities, and facing threats with courage.

  • Embrace Your Unique Style: Be true to who you are as a leader.

  • Commit to Continuous Growth: Always seek to learn and improve.

  • Be Resilient: Adapt and thrive in the face of change.

  • Inspire Others: Use your journey to empower those around you.

Join me on this exciting exploration of leadership. Let's use SWOT Analysis not just as a tool but as a guide, turning every stumbling block into a building block for your leadership success.

Kind regards,

Barbara May


About Barbara May

Picture of Barbara May outside with trees, a walk bridge and the  Sturgeon River in the background
Barbara May, Stumbling Blocks Team Building Seminars

Known for her "Stumbling Blocks" philosophy and a multifaceted career spanning over three decades across diverse fields, including sport and recreation, education, not-for-profit management, entertainment and government, Barbara May uses a rich blend of personal stories, humorous examples, and real-world insight to encourage and empower leaders and teams to succeed. She embodies her key message: If you get back up, anything is possible.

Her distinctive background, including joking her way into the Guinness World Records and surviving life-threatening pulmonary embolism (blood clots in her lungs), adds an engaging and inspiring layer to her presentations. She delivers interactive keynotes, team building seminars and leadership training programs where laughter meets learning and stumbling blocks transform into building blocks for effective communication, teamwork, and leadership. Home | Barbara May | Stumbling Blocks Team Building Seminars

40 views0 comments


bottom of page