Strength-based leadership is a topic I became familiar with almost 4 years ago. Prior to diving into this topic, I was a student of various self-help and personal development authors. I began a long journey of self-discovery and development. I learned a lot of great information but I found it difficult to implement the theories into my life. As a result, I wasn’t changing. I was focusing on trying to fix my weakness but I wasn’t having much success.
I will write a lot about what I have learned about strength-based leadership on this platform. However, I could not start there. The reason should be obvious. Think about this… if you do not have a grasp on a topic then you cannot teach it to others. If I do not understand what my strengths are and I am not first operating in them then I cannot coach you into doing the same. This is the purpose of this article and the video that supplements the message.
I have talked to a lot of people that tell me “I know what my strengths are.” That may be true to some extent. However, I have not found anyone that can backup their claims with anything other than speculation. This is why I have come to love what the Gallup organization has done with their StrenghtsFinder assessment and the resources they created to help people interpret and utilize the results. This is the only method that I have found that allows you to definitively say that you know what your strengths are or could be. It provides a scientific foundation for the development of what you are naturally good at into what you are great at.
The most important takeaway from this article is the fact that you will not experience the type of success you are looking for by focusing on your weaknesses. Although it is important to be aware of the things you may not do well, it is not valuable for you to focus on those things except to create a plan of action that sets you up for greater success in the future. Focusing on your weaknesses and not fun, it is not inspiring and it is not going to bring the change you desire. I know this to be true because I was trying to loose weight for years yet focusing on my weight did not help me loose any of it. The key to success is in discovering what you are naturally good at and wrapping your goals for improvement about developing your “talents” into “strengths”.
Gallup Research distinguishes talents from strengths in their core definitions. Talents, which are commonly misrepresented as strengths, are “naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” The results of the StrengthsFinder assessment provide talent themes or generalizations of common talents that people possess. A strength, on the other hand, is the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity. When you understand what these two words means, doesn’t it become easy to determine which you would prefer to operate in?
Too often people with innate talents will spend their lives trying to develop weaknesses into talents that they can use to achieve their goals. This is impossible when you understand that the word talent refers to “naturally recurring patterns”. If you try to manufacture something in your life then you have to understand that it is not natural. It is not a true talent and therefore cannot become a strength. This is not to say that you cannot learn a new skill or become good at something you have no natural skill in. However, it is to say that you cannot expect “near perfect performance” in this context and yet that is what we often seek.
I aim to shatter these approaches. I want to help people detach the word perfection from their definition of success. I want to help people remove the illusion of progress when they are really trying to create new talents out of their weaknesses. I want to help people understand the value of focusing on their strengths and becoming better at what they are naturally good at. I want to help develop more strength-based leaders that encourage others to develop strengths instead of trying to fix weaknesses. All of these desires are unfulfilled unless more people understand the value of strengths in their own lives. As I endeavor to teach people what I have learned about leadership, I must begin with what I know about strength. Get to know yours and start operating in them as soon as possible.