Strengths-Based Leadership

A few years ago, the book Strengths Finder 2.0 was the topic of much conversation. For our team meetings, we would get together and share which strengths we possessed and how we could maximize our potential as individuals and as teams. I loved this kind of strategic planning. After all, one of my five main strengths is Strategic!

Then came along Strengths-Based Leadership. It takes the basic concept – focusing primarily on your strengths – and applies it in the context of leadership.

By grouping the various kinds of strengths, the creators of this model, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, came up with four types of leaders:


“Leaders with dominant strength in the Executing domain know how to make things happen” (24).

“Those who lead by Influencing help their team reach a much broader audience” (25).

“Those who lead through Relationship Building are the essential glue that holds a team together” (25).

“Leaders with great Strategic Thinking strengths are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be. They are constantly absorbing and analyzing information and helping the team make better decisions” (26).

One kind of leader is not more important than another. Rather, everyone brings something different to the table, and when we capitalize on our strengths together, with a common goal in mind, then much can be accomplished.

For many, their strengths fall within one of these four types of leaders. For me, all five of my strengths fall within the Strategic Thinking category: input, learner, intellection, strategic, futuristic.

My deep desire to learn is evident here. The “input” strength testifies to my insatiable desire to read and study and learn as much as possible. The “learner” strength also evidences my interest in reflecting on the process of how learning takes place. (Is it any surprise I’m a teacher?)

My focus on reflection illustrates the “intellection” strength, which is characterized by analytical introspection and contemplation. This active interior breeds fertile soil for the “strategic” strength, discovering the options and choices available with new enterprises. Finally, the “futuristic” strength reveals my natural default to continuously look towards the future with all of its hope-filled possibilities.

Knowing your strengths is critical to understanding how you can best contribute to a team. It’s also important not to succumb to “strength envy.” Some strengths may sound impressive.

For instance, I think the “woo” strength is cool. Woo stands for “winning others over.” People with this strength are natural charmers. Their charismatic nature draws people in, and they connect with new people easily.

However, there is a shadow side to every strength. The instant-friend-making ability found with the “woo” strength can reveal a tendency to remain within the superficial like-me-because-I’m-fun stage of friendships. Those with the “woo” strength need to make a concerted effort to develop deep and lasting relationships.

The same is true of all strengths. Because of my own tendency to focus deeply on ideas and principles, I need to keep in mind the human, relational element when making decisions.

A few months ago, my small group spent an evening sharing our strengths. It was fun to learn more about each other in this way.

If you are part of a leadership team, or part of a small group, I encourage you to get the book Strengths-Based Leadership and take the online test. (Each book comes with a code that gives you access to an online test site.) Then share with one another how you see yourself best contributing to the team. And encourage each other to focus on your areas of greatest strengths.

What are your strengths?

4 thoughts on “Strengths-Based Leadership

  1. Pingback: To Go or Not To Go {She Speaks, Allume, and Other Great Conferences} | Denise J. Hughes

  2. I have not done the Strengths Finder test, but I have done Myers-Briggs, Keirsey-Bates, and several others.

    What strikes me most about such assessments is that it is almost always more effective to focus on, and to maximize, one's strengths rather than to try to constantly “fix” one's weaknesses.

    Or as an old colleague of mine used to say, “Play to your strengths.” 🙂

    blessings to you – Marsha

  3. Me? My 'signature themes are: Activator, Developer, Maximizer, Relator and Strategic. I'm in formation for ordination as a permanent deacon in London, UK (archdiocese of Westminster.) We use the 'Living your Strengths' version adapted for faith communities,to aid us with the 'human' development aspect of our formation. It's great! Interestingly enough, I also find that it correlates with my Myers-Briggs type indicator: INTJ. Thanks for your post…


  4. I love….'One kind of leader is not more important than another. Rather, everyone brings something different to the table, and when we capitalize on our strengths together, with a common goal in mind, then much can be accomplished.' that speaks to my heart and life philosophy. We raised our five successful children telling them 'it's not how smart you are but how are you smart'?. Similar philosophy, I'd say.

    I'll be heading to the bookstore now…

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