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Ironically, leaders that try to become good at everything become the least effective overall.  Authentic leaders know their own strengths and weaknesses.  They stay true to who they are and surround themselves with people that complement their strengths and fill in the gaps.

So it’s important to know what you bring to the table and how your strengths contribute to your work team.

leadership strengths, leadership development, leadership skills, leadership styles, leadership training

To help aspiring leaders identify their strengths, researchers at the Gallup Organization created the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment.  It’s an inexpensive online questionnaire that indicates the strength of your natural talents – out of 34 possible themes – and provides ideas for putting them into action at work (see also Quadruple Your Success: Unlock Your Hidden Strengths).

It gets much more interesting when you take your results to the next level.  These 34 StrengthsFinder themes have been grouped into 4 leadership domains based on research from 20,000 interviews with senior leaders, studies of more than one million work teams, and 50 years of Gallup Polls of the world’s most admired leaders.

The 4 domains of leadership strength:

  • Executing – These are the people who make things happen; they implement solutions.  They get you from “vision” to “reality” and will work tirelessly to finalize a project.
  • Influencing – These are the people who help the team reach a broader audience.  They are great at selling your ideas both inside and outside the organization.  They make sure your group is heard.
  • Relationship Building – These members are the glue that holds a team together.  They help create camaraderie and synergy so that the group is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Strategic Thinking – These individuals keep the focus on what could be.  They are constantly absorbing and analyzing information to help the team make better decisions.  They stretch our thinking for the future.

All of these attributes are desirable and necessary for a team to succeed.  But of all the leaders studied by Gallup, not one had world-class strength in every domain.  The researchers found that the best leaders have 1-2 dominant domains.  Those who strive to be competent in all four domains become the least effective leaders overall.

The most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and build on each person’s strengths.  If a leader insists on trying to be good at everything, it’s doubtful they will reach excellence at anything.  Instead, they must be wise enough to get the right strengths on their team.  With an awareness of their strengths and limitations, these leaders partner with the right people to create extraordinary growth.

Fill in the gaps

  1. Schedule time to discuss each of your team member’s strengths in detail.  Evaluate how and where these strengths can be used to the team’s advantage.  Position people where they can maximize their talents.
  1. Set an example for your team.  Admit that you do some things well and others not so well.  Make it clear that you appreciate their unique gifts and that you don’t expect all things from all people.  In areas where they don’t excel, give them support by helping them find a complementary partner or system that will help them succeed.
  1. Once you know everyone’s strengths, you can examine which of the leadership domains you have “covered” and where you may have a gap.  If you really want to develop a strengths-based culture, you can use this information to bring in people with strengths your team may be lacking.  Recruit and select carefully, based on the belief that for every need, there is a person with a talent to match.  If your team is made up of mostly relationship-builders and strategic thinkers, you probably get along well and enjoy brainstorming together.  But you need people to put your plans into action.  You want to hire another set of hands to get the work accomplished.
  1. Design interview questions to tap into a particular strength that you need.  Listen for words that indicate a candidate’s strength in action.  For example, a candidate may say they are very organized, conscientious, and dependable.  These attributes correspond to the strengths of “responsibility,” “discipline,” or “arranger,” which all fall in the Executing domain.
  1. Occasionally each team member will have to step out of their “strengths zone” and “pinch hit” for the team.  But that should be the exception, rather than the rule.  True teamwork occurs only when a complementary set of strengths come together to operate in a coordinated whole.


Most popular approaches to team-building are just fun activities that allow people to get away from their “real job” for a few hours. But true team-building must be a continuous process, not a single event.

A strengths-based approach is essential for creating an exceptional work team. More than 19 million people have taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment; over 90% of Fortune 500 companies use it. But most leaders do not get the full value of this powerful tool if they do not have the necessary training on how to apply it to their teams. Strengths-Based Teams is an intensive 3-month program that takes your teams’ strengths to the next level.  Discover how to truly transform your team here:

positive leadership, leadership development, leadership training

Resource:  Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2008).  Strengths-Based Leadership.  New York:  Gallup Press.

Dr. Stefani Yorges

I am a psychologist and professional leadership coach. I partner with people who want to rise to their full potential so they can have an increasingly greater impact on others.

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