Published on July 30, 2019
Strengths Based Leadership is a powerful approach to identify and work from a position of strengths. We all have strengths but they are often untapped, unrecognised or underutilised. Or more often we focus on our development areas or weaknesses as it’s human nature (and typically British!) to look for the negative in everything first.
Having spent a lot of time in my career delivering leadership programmes and coaching leaders, I have always had a passion for developing strengths. However, some of the leaders I have worked with have often been surprised at this… “I’m on a leadership development programme- I’m here to fix the stuff I’m NOT good at!!” At the beginning of a workshop or coaching conversation, when asked to identify strengths and development areas, typically people always struggle writing down what they excel at, or what’s made them successful.
Why is this? Most of the stories on the news are negative (after all, they draw the most attention). There are more negative words in our vocabulary than positive and happy words. Often, when something doesn't go the way we think it should, our mind immediately jumps to negative thoughts and gloomy assumptions.
It is also in human nature to fix things. We love finding problems so that we can solve them and gaps so that we can fill them. Not only do we use this approach with the projects we work on, but we also use this approach when identifying leadership behaviours to develop, or when evaluating our employees. After all, it feels natural, it feels right as a leader to explain to people where they can improve. And that’s where we go wrong! This approach is the reason we cannot lead and build strong and diverse teams. This approach is the reason we are not utilising human potential to its fullest. This approach is the reason we have more mediocre managers than we have true leaders. And at the end of the day, all that impacts our culture and ultimately our bottom line.
In order to use Strengths Based Leadership, you first need to know what your strengths are. Without an awareness of your strengths, it’s almost impossible for you to lead effectively. Strengths can be referred to as ‘highly-developed talents that consistently produce a positive outcome in a specific task’.
Can you identify your personal strengths that you consider you have to offer the organisation and your team? What have you done recently to develop your strengths?
To also give the notion of strengths based leadership some balance, we must also consider what happens when we overplay our strengths. Let me give you an example….
A strength of an effective leader may be that they have a drive for results. Some of the characteristics of said leader are:
- Possesses the resilience and determination to deliver to agreed plans even when faced with knock-backs.
- Demonstrates clear ambition and focus for the business, even when faced with ambiguity.
- Takes accountability to uphold high standards and quality outcomes, and demands the same high level of excellence from others.
- Takes the initiative in challenging the perceived norms.
Now, let us consider the impact if those strengths were overplayed and overutilized… The leader is so confident of their ability to attain goals, they are less confident in addressing the emotional situations that arise when communicating. They may vigorously pursue implementing agreed plans, whilst not creating an environment that promotes diversity and innovation. Leaders that overplay a drive for results may also need to understand that not everyone in their team has the same drive and resilience, and could become too demanding when the goal is in sight.
As with everything, there is always a perfect balance and by taking time out to identify what we are good at v’s our development areas, we can find the perfect harmony in self-awareness and self-development.
If you’re interested in identifying and understanding more about your leadership strengths, click here to read about our Vibe 360 feedback tool.
Buckingham and Clifton, Now Discover Your Strengths, 2001
Essentials Of Strength-Based Leadership – Ekaterina Walter, (Forbes.com)
Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow – Tom Rath, Barry Conchie