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Leadership

SWOT analysis: A complete guide for leaders and managers

Matthew Channell - Last Update: 12 Nov 2021

Contents

The benefits of using SWOT analysis

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats

How to use SWOT analysis as a leader or manager

Effects of SWOT analysis on staff



SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis considers each of these four areas to come up with an action plan for success.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of SWOT analysis, cover each aspect of the SWOT framework in detail and provide advice on how to use SWOT analysis as a leader or manager.

The benefits of using SWOT analysis

It can be easy to fall into a predictable pattern of behaviour at work, failing to grow and develop as individuals or teams.

We may have strengths that we take for granted and weaknesses that hold us back. Lucrative opportunities could be missed, and threats could be heading our way without us realising it.

Completing a SWOT analysis can put all these things into perspective, providing an insight into your own personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Once you’ve identified these aspects of your personality, you’ll be in a better position to move forward and make a strategic plan for success.

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats

Every SWOT analysis begins by listing out strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

All you need a clean sheet of paper to get started. Divide it into four, then consider the following questions for each section.

Strengths

  • What advantages do you have over others? These could include skills, qualifications, experiences or connections.
  • What can you do better than others? Are there any particular talents or abilities that make you stand out from the crowd?
  • What resources do you have access to that others may lack? For example, are you able to use any tools or technologies that other people can’t?
  • What do people value about you? Think about personal traits that others have praised or expressed gratitude for.
  • What values do you believe to be important, and how do you embody these at work?
  • What networks are you part of, and do you know anyone influential who can help you?

Weaknesses

  • What tasks or responsibilities do you tend to avoid, lack confidence in or feel unable to perform effectively?
  • What do other people see as your weaknesses?
  • What gaps are there in your experience, education or training?
  • What negative habits do you have? For example, do you have a tendency to procrastinate, or react badly when something doesn’t go your way?
  • What personality traits are holding you back? For example, are you anxious when it comes to public speaking or awkward when networking?
  • What can your colleagues or competitors do better than you, and what are the areas where you’re consistently outperformed?

Opportunities

  • What new tools or technologies can you take advantage of?
  • Who do you know who could help to unlock new opportunities?
  • What are the current trends in your industry, and how can you capitalise on these?
  • What are some weaknesses you’ve noticed in your competitors, and how can you succeed where they have failed?
  • What are some problems you’ve noticed people around you experiencing, and how can you leverage your strengths to solve these problems?
  • What classes, conferences or networking events could you attend to build strengths or eliminate weaknesses?

Threats

  • What obstacles regularly prevent you from making progress at work?
  • What changes or developments are currently affecting your profession or industry?
  • What new technologies could potentially threaten your job or business?
  • What weaknesses could cause you to fall behind your colleagues or competitors?

How to use SWOT analysis as a leader or manager

Leaders and managers can assist individuals in their teams to conduct their own personal SWOT analyses, combining self-assessment with input from colleagues to come up with a report covering each team member’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

As well as setting the foundation for growth and development for each member of your team, carrying out collaborative SWOT analyses can help to unite teams, allowing colleagues get to know one another better, recognise shared strengths or weaknesses and seek opportunities for collective advancement.

To illustrate this, consider the following hypothetical example of a SWOT analysis for Ella, an account manager at a communications consultancy.

Strengths: Ella is highly creative and regularly impresses clients with original ideas for advertising campaigns. She originally trained as a graphic designer, so is skilled in using programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to present concepts in a visually engaging way.

Weaknesses: Ella struggles to communicate effectively in presentations due to anxiety about public speaking. She doesn’t know much about social media marketing, which puts her at a disadvantage compared to some of her colleagues.

Opportunities: A marketing conference with a seminar about social media is coming up, allowing Ella to make new contacts while developing her skills and knowledge in this area. She’s currently mentoring a new recruit, which could be an opportunity to demonstrate her leadership skills and be considered for a promotion.

Threats: With an increasing focus on social media campaigns at her company, Ella’s job could be at risk if she doesn’t improve her knowledge in this area. Her lack of confidence in presentations means she could be overshadowed when it comes to career development opportunities.

Based on her SWOT analysis, Ella knows what she has to do to progress in her career: work on her public speaking skills and industry knowledge while mentoring less experienced employees to prove her capabilities as a future leader.

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Effects of SWOT analysis on staff

Advantages

By giving staff a greater understanding of their personalities, SWOT can motivate team members to improve their performance at work and set career goals based on the findings of their analysis.

SWOT can also be a useful tool for analysing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your department or company as a whole. Involving staff in this process can be a great way to unite teams and create a shared strategy for business-wide success.

Disadvantages 

One potential negative effect of SWOT analysis is the possibility of embarrassment or annoyance from staff who don’t appreciate having their weaknesses pointed out to them. This can be avoided by approaching the exercise in a safe and non-judgmental environment. For example, some colleagues might prefer to discuss the analysis in a private meeting.

However you approach SWOT analysis, make it clear that the process is intended to be a positive and constructive exercise, leading to the growth and development of each individual and the team as a whole.