Strengths Based Leadership

Written by Dan Collinson, Learning & Development Consultant

We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘play to our strengths’, but in practice we tend to spend more time focusing on weaknesses and trying to fix them. By doing so, we are setting up teams for competency rather than enabling them to thrive. In an era of humanising the world of work, wouldn’t we want teams to be energised, motivated and high performing instead of drained, uninspired, and disengaged?

Research from the field of positive psychology suggests that employees who understand their strengths and use them effectively are more likely to be engaged at work, be happier, more productive, and more creative.

Strengths-based Leadership

“The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant” – Peter Drucker, founder of Modern Management

When we discover the strengths in ourselves and in others, we create an opportunity to be our best selves, fulfil our potential and ultimately to flourish. The fundamental reason behind this is that when we are using our strengths, we are working on tasks that we perform exceptionally well at, once that we truly enjoy, tasks that bring us energy and that come naturally for us.

When put like that it makes sense to focus more on strengths activities instead of weakness ones. This isn’t to say that we can ignore our weaknesses, just that we should spend more time using our strengths.

Taking a strengths-based approach to leadership can help our teams go from good to great. As we actively seek opportunities to apply our strengths and for others to apply theirs effectively, we create a positive work culture, which is geared to thrive. Teams will be working on what they do best, what they love doing and they will also feel valued. The resulting impact is that there will be an upward spiral of positivity and performance.

Tips for Implementing Strengths-Based Leadership

How do we go about implementing a strengths-based leadership approach? One very impactful way of doing this is to become a Strengths Spotter, which is where we notice when colleagues are showing signs of strengths use. This helps us to attune to the best in others and helps us to understand more deeply what motivates them.

Here are some tips on implementing strengths-based leadership:

– Look for tasks colleagues become energised by and thoroughly enjoy
– Give immediate feedback when we see somebody using a strength. This gives the person a concrete example of the particular strength and when they have used it
– Empower colleagues to use strengths. Not only will this improve performance, it will improve wellbeing
– When faced with a weakness task, find ways of combining a strength to the task to make it more enjoyable to do
– Craft jobs and tasks around strengths for a happy and high performing team

Fortunately, these tips are quite easy to implement once we focus on colleagues through a strengths lens. It just takes practice.