Strengths-Based Leadership

executivepowerExecutive Coaching, Human Factor

Strengths-Based Leadership

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 firm’s StrengthsFinder assessment.

In Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, New York Times-bestselling author Tom Rath and leadership consultant Barry Conchie reveal three keys to effective leadership:

  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’ basic needs.

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 9%. But when leaders focus on employees’ strengths, the odds soar to 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.

A leader is someone who can get things done through other people.”
~ Warren Buffett, business magnate

People follow leaders for very specific reasons. While researchers have spent the bulk of their time and funding on analyses of leaders’ individual traits, the follower’s point of view has gone largely unexplored.

As noted earlier, 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

The StrengthsFinder assessment  by Gallup focuses on 34 theme-based strengths that fit into the four domains of leadership strength: execution, influence, relationship-building, and strategic thinking.

Other assessments, such as the ADVanced Insights Assessment can give you an even more detailed look at your own personal talents, values, and behaviors that are key factors in discovering your own unique strengths.

Defining StrengthsLego Workout

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.
  • Talents – how 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.  You can use tools such as StrengthsFinder (Gallup/Marcus Buckingham) or the one we provide our clients called the ADVanced Insights.  If you’d like a complimentary copy to discover your talents, please contact us at

Growing Strengths for the Future

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

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

By knowing and using your own talents as well as helping your team understand where they are naturally gifted, you can build upon your strengths and the strengths of your team members.  You can then increase your leadership effectiveness and build stronger, balanced teams.

Remember: Leaders stay true to who they are. They make sure they have the right people around them. Those who surround themselves with similar personalities will always be at a disadvantage, as they’re too insecure to enlist partners and team members with complementary strengths.

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