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Strength based Leadership

The desire to make a lasting impact drives most to want to lead. Leaders are found in every aspect of life. They lead countries, organizations, communities and families. The best leaders get to live on because of the way they have shaped your thoughts and beliefs. Your life may be forever altered by an effective leader.

Decades of Gallup data on effective leaders was reviewed by a team of experts. That team initiated a study of more than 10,000 followers to answer the question of "why they follow the most influential leaders in their life". Key findings that emerged from this research

  • The most effective leaders are always investing in strengths
  • The most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people
  • The most effective leaders understand their followers’ needs

The path to great leadership starts with a deep understanding of the strengths you bring to the table.

 Investing In Your Strengths

Rath and Conchie express that if you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything. Mediocrity is inadvertently bread by society’s encouragement for us to be well rounded. The well rounded leader is perhaps the greatest misconception of all. In order for an organization to be successful, they seek out leaders with attributes such as; great communicators; visionary thinkers; and leaders who can get things done and follow through.

It is not uncommon to find leaders that can get by or are above average in several domains, but those who strive to be competent in all areas become the least effective leaders overall.

Finding your leadership strengths

Leading effectively requires the awareness of your strengths. Our talents and our limitations are the basis for which we all lead. Complications arise when we try and imitated the leaders we admire. This takes us out of our natural element and eliminates our chances of success. It is the differences that define us and lead to our success. We as leaders are all too often blind to the obvious when it comes to something of critical importance to us…our own personalities. We simply don’t know our own strengths and weaknesses.

Most people have come across a leader who is completely oblivious of a glaring weakness. This lack of self-awareness can lead to disengaged employees, unhappy customers, and undue stress beyond the workplace.

A Long –Term Investment

At a very basic level, it is hard for us to build self-confidence when we are focused on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. Over the last ten years, Gallup scientists have explored the mechanism through which a strengths-based approach influences our lives and revealed that people experience significant gains in self-confidence after learning more about their strengths. The increase in confidence at an individual level helps to explain how strengths-based programs boost an organization’s overall engagement and productivity.

It is highly valuable for a leader to know their own strengths and help others uncover their strengths as early as possible in order to create more rapid individual and organizational growth.

Maximizing Your Team

It is rare for a person to be recruited to an executive team because their strengths are the best complement to that of the existing team members. Leadership teams are a product of circumstance more than design. Ideally, effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and build on each person’s strengths. All too often, team members are selected primarily on knowledge of competence with disregard to leadership skill sets. You think of the potential of the person, not the appearance. And if you can discover hidden potentials, that can make a great difference in your organization. You have to distinguish between loyalty and brilliance. Most leaders prefer loyalty over brilliance; their afraid that they’re going to be undercut."

What Makes A Great Leadership Team?

The most cohesive and successful teams posses a broader grouping of strengths. These include Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. It serves a team well to have a representation of strengths in each of these four domains. Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.

Leaders with a strength to execute have the ability to "catch" an idea and make ithappen. Themes that go along with this strength consist of achiever, arranger, belief, consistency, deliberative, discipline, focus, responsibility and restorative.

Leaders with a strength to influence are always selling the team’s idea inside and outside the organization. Themes that go along with this strength are activator, command, communication, competition, maximize, self-assurance, significance and woo.

Leaders with relationship building strengths have the unique ability to create groups and organizations that are much greater than the sum of their parts. Adaptability, developer, connectedness, empathy, harmony, include, individualization, positivity and relator are themes that accompany this strength.

Leaders with strength in strategic thinking keep us focused on what could be. Themes that correlate to this strength are analytical, context, futuristic, ideation, input, intellection, learner and strategic.

Organizational growth is driven by leaders that leverage their dominant strengths.

What Strong Teams Have in Common

Conflict doesn’t destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results. The most successful teams are the ones that are characterized by healthy debate and at times heated arguments. Instead of becoming isolated during tough times, these teams actually gain strength and develop cohesion.

Strong teams prioritize what’s best for the organization and then move forward. The best teams are able to keep the larger goal in view. Once a decision is made, members of great teams rally around to help one another succeed.

Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work. Some of the most productive team members work extreme hours and endure amazing levels of responsibility. As hard as they seem to work for the company, they seem to bring the same level of energy and intensity to their family, social, and community life.

Strong teams embrace diversity. The most engaged teams welcome diversity of age, gender and race, while disengaged teams may do the opposite. They also look at individuals through the lens of their natural strengths, not at physical characteristics. This minimizes the influence of superficial barriers.

Strong teams are magnets for talent. You can spot a strong team by the way everyone wants to be on it. Despite all the consequences and pressure, it is your potential stars who most want to be on these teams. Instead of being intimidated by the challenge and responsibility, they seek out these teams.

Understanding Why People Follow

The most effective leaders rally a broader group of people toward an organization’s goals, mission, and objectives. Leaders are only as strong as the connections they make with each person in their constituency, whether they have one follower or one million. Warren Buffett expressed that "a leader is someone who can get things done through other people." If you want to lead, it is critical to know what the people around you need and expect from you.

Followers have a very clear picture of what they want and need from the most influential leaders in their lives: trust, compassion, stability and hope.

Leadership That Lasts Beyond a Lifetime

Effective leaders know better than to try to be someone they are not. Whenever they spot an opportunity, they reinvest in their strengths. Leaders stay true to who they are and then make sure they have the right people around them. It is better to enlist partners with complementary strengths than to surround yourself with similar personalities.

Extraordinary leaders realize that their impact on this world rests in the hands of those who follow as opposed to seeing personal success as an end in itself.

The ultimate test of a leader is what continues to grow long after you’re gone.

Rath, Tom, and Barry Conchie. Strengths Based Leadership. New York: Gallup Press, 2008. Print.