Leading from Strength

It’s a well-researched fact, and makes good common sense too!  Placing your attention on someone’s strengths (including your own) brings out the best and produces the best results.

If you want to improve employee engagement and productivity while reducing turnover, your organization must build on individual and team strengths.

Nearly a decade ago, Gallup unveiled the results of a 30-year research project on leadership strengths. More than 3 million people have since taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, which forms the core of several  books:

  1. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton (Free Press, 2001)
  2. StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Gallup Press, 2007)
  3. Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham (Free Press, 2007)

In Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, New York Times-bestselling author Tom Rath and leadership consultant Barry Conchie reveal the results of extensive Gallup research. Based on their analyses, three keys to effective leadership emerge:

  1. Know your strengths—and invest in others’ strengths.
  2. Hire people with the right strengths for your team.
  3. Understand and meet your followers’ four basic needs: trust, compassion, stability and hope.

3 Keys to Effective Leadership

1. The most effective leaders continuously invest in strengths.

When leaders fail to focus on individuals’ strengths, the odds of employee engagement drop to a dismal 1 in 11 (9%). But when leaders focus on employees’ strengths, the odds soar to almost 3 in 4 (73%).

That translates to an eightfold increase in the odds of engaging individuals in their work, leading to greatly increased organizational and personal gains. Employees enjoy greater self-confidence when they learn about their strengths (as opposed to focusing on their weaknesses).

Emphasizing what people do right boosts their overall engagement and productivity. They learn their roles faster and more quickly adapt to variances. They not only produce more, but the quality of their work improves. Gallup has also found powerful links between top talent and crucial business outcomes, including higher productivity, sales and profitability, lower turnover and fewer unscheduled absences.

2. The most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and maximize their team.

The best leaders needn’t be well rounded, but their teams are. Strong teams have a balance of strengths in four specific leadership domains:

  • Execution: Great leaders know how to make things happen. They work tirelessly to implement solutions and realize success.
  • Influence: Leaders help their teams reach a broader audience by selling ideas inside and outside the organization.
  • Relationship-Building: Leaders are the glue that holds a team together. They create an environment in which groups perform harmoniously for optimal results.
  • Strategic Thinking: Leaders keep everyone focused on the possibilities for a better future.

3. The most effective leaders understand their followers’ needs.

People follow leaders for very specific reasons. Gallup’s study of 10,000 followers reveals four basic needs. They want their leaders to display:

  • Trust: Respect, integrity and honesty
  • Compassion: Caring, friendship, happiness and love
  • Stability: Security, strength, support and peace
  • Hope: Direction, faith and guidance

Measuring Strengths

Gallup’s new online StrengthsFinder assessment helps you identify which of 34 theme-based strengths you have and they fit into the four domains of leadership strength: execution, influence, relationship-building and strategic thinking.

You can also take advantage of similar free online tools.

Defining Strengths

A strength is your ability to consistently produce positive outcomes through near-perfect performance in a specific task. It is composed of:

  • Skills—your ability to perform a task’s fundamental steps. Skills do not naturally exist within us; they must be acquired through formal or informal training and practice.
  • Knowledge—what you know, such as your awareness of historical dates and your grasp of the rules of a game. Knowledge must be acquired through formal or informal education.
  • Talentshow you naturally think, feel and behave (i.e., the inner drive to compete, sensitivity to others’ needs, being outgoing at social gatherings). Talents are innate and unique to each of us.

Finding Your Strengths

We display our strengths each day, and we don’t necessarily require a formal assessment to discover where we excel.

  • Our yearnings can reveal the presence of a talent, particularly when we recognize them early in life. A yearning can be described as an internal force—an almost magnetic attraction that leads you to a particular activity or environment time and again.
  • Rapid learning also signals talent. Your brain may light up when you undertake a new challenge. You’ll feel a whole bank of switches flick to the “on” position and feel invigorated.
  • If you feel great satisfaction (psychological fulfillment) when meeting new challenges, you’ve likely identified a talent. Pay close attention to situations that bring you these energizing feelings. If you can identify them, you’re well on your way to pinpointing some of your dominant talents.
  • If you’re so engrossed in an activity that you lose track of time (timelessness), you’re engaged at a deep, natural level—another indicator of talent.
  • Glimpses of excellence are flashes of outstanding performance observed by you or others. In these moments, the task at hand has tapped some of your greatest talents.

Talents are the foundation for developing your strengths. Use your StrengthsFinder report or another assessment tool to identify them. Hone them for a more fulfilling life.

34 Personal Strengths

The Gallup Organization identified 34 distinct personal strengths after interviewing 1.7 million professionals over 40 years:

Gallup’s 34 Strengths
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Gallup Press, 2007)

1.

Achiever

Constantly driven to accomplish tasks

2.

Activator

Sets things in motion

3.

Adaptability

Adept at accommodating changes in direction/plan

4.

Analytical

Requires data/proof to make sense of circumstances

5.

Arranger

Enjoys orchestrating many tasks/variables

6.

Belief

Strives to find ultimate meaning in everything he/she does

7.

Command

Embraces leadership positions without fearing confrontation

8.

Communication

Uses words to inspire action and education

9.

Competition

Thrives on comparison and competition

10.

Connectedness

Seeks to unite others through commonalities

11.

Consistency

Treats everyone the same to avoid unfair advantage

12.

Context

Reviews the past to make better decisions

13.

Deliberative

Proceeds with caution and a planned approach

14.

Developer

Sees others’ untapped potential

15.

Discipline

Makes sense of the world by imposing order

16.

Empathy

In tune with others’ emotions

17.

Focus

Has a clear sense of direction

18.

Futuristic

Eyes the future to drive today’s success

19.

Harmony

Seeks to avoid conflict and achieve consensus

20.

Ideation

Sees underlying concepts that unite disparate ideas

21.

Includer

Instinctively works to include everyone

22.

Individualization

Draws upon individuals’ uniqueness to create successful teams

23.

Input

Constantly collects information/objects for future use

24.

Intellection

Enjoys thinking and thought-provoking conversation; can compress complex concepts into simplified models

25.

Learner

Constantly challenged; learns new skills/information to feel successful

26.

Maximizer

Takes people and projects from great to excellent

27.

Positivity

Injects levity into any situation

28.

Relator

Most comfortable with fewer, deeper relationships

29.

Responsibility

Always follows through on commitments

30.

Restorative

Thrives on solving difficult problems

31.

Self-Assurance

Stays true to beliefs; self-confident

32.

Significance

Others to see him/her as significant

33.

Strategic

Can see a clear direction in complex situations

34.

Woo

Can easily persuade

Each of these strengths contributes to the four leadership domains:

Gallup Leadership Strengths
Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow
,
by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (Gallup Press, 2013)

EXECUTING

ACHIEVER

CONSISTENCY

FOCUS

ARRANGER

DELIBERATIVE

RESPONSIBILITY

BELIEF

DISCIPLINE

RESTORATIVE

INFLUENCING

ACTIVATOR

COMPETITION

SIGNIFICANCE

COMMAND

MAXIMIZER

WOO

COMMUNICATION

SELF-ASSURANCE

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

ADAPTABILITY

EMPATHY

INDIVIDUALIZATION

DEVELOPER

HARMONY

POSITIVITY

CONNECTEDNESS

INCLUDER

RELATOR

STRATEGIC THINKING

ANALYTICAL

IDEATION

LEARNER

CONTEXT

INPUT

STRATEGIC

FUTURISTIC

INTELLECTION

Worth Remembering:

“People have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.” ~ Tom Rath

Many people fall into the trap of trying to “fix” their deficits and flaws instead of expanding their strengths.

Using the Gallup data , you can  identify your talents and convert them into strengths.  Using your strengths will undoubtedly  increase your leadership effectiveness and build stronger, balanced teams.

Content provided by Patsi Krakoff, Psy.D.

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