Use Strengths to Understand Your Leadership Style

April 15, 2013

Recently I wrote about the benefits of taking Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 strengths assessment. Nearly 9 million individuals have used the assessment to identify their Top 5 signature strength themes. That means there are many leaders out there who have yet to discover the incredible benefit of clarifying and leveraging their strengths.

Professional PeopleWhat I’d like to do in this post is show how the 34 StrengthsFinder themes neatly divide into four specific leadership styles – and I’ll explain what difference this makes for you and your team. In the next post, I’ll share some ideas for building a strengths-based leadership development program for your organization.

The 4 Distinct Strengths-Based Leadership Styles

In his follow-up book Strengths-Based Leadership, Gallup writer Tom Rath describes four distinct leadership styles that StrengthsFinder themes fall into.

Executing: Individuals with the majority of their strengths in the leadership style are adept at making things happen. They “catch” ideas easily and naturally make them a reality. They tend to be the ones who implement specific solutions.

Influencing: Individuals with influencing strengths help their teams reach a broader audience. They are the salespeople for a team’s ideas. Not only that, they naturally tend to “own” the responsibility for getting the message across.

Relationship Building: Individuals with relationship building strengths are the human glue that holds a team together. They take a group of individuals and create synergetic groups that work better together than they could apart.

Strategic Thinking: Individuals with strategic thinking strengths essentially keep everyone focused on what could – and should – be. They use information to help the team make informed decisions.

What Difference Do Leadership Styles Make?

At this point, you may be thinking that these distinctions sound nice but wonder how to determine which leadership style you lean toward as well as how it affects your team. I’d like to answer both questions using this table I created for a 20-person project team.

Strengths Leadership Themes Examples

As we learned previously, the StrengthsFinder assessment gives each person a set of their Top 5 Signature Themes from list of 34 possibilities. You can see from this table which strengths fall under which themes. If two or more of your “Top 5” lie within one of these categories, you are likely strongest in that particular leadership style. Since this team was made up of 20 individuals, that means 100 strengths were represented in the sum of everyone’s Top 5. The totals for each theme are listed below.

Without knowing anything about the team itself, I’d like you to consider the following questions:

  • What does this team likely tend to do well?
  • What does this team probably tend to struggle with?
  • How closely would you predict this team works together? With customers?
  • In what areas would this team be most likely to enlist outside help?
  • Given the profile, how might individuals with strengths in the “Influencing” theme best support the group?

None of the answers are cut and dried. Individual strengths reach their highest potential only when they are part of a collective group (tweet). There’s incredible value in taking StrengthsFinder 2.0 on your own to increase your personal insight and effectiveness. But the benefit multiples exponentially in a group context.

The good news is that you don’t have to come up with all the answers on your own. Each assessment comes with a Strengths Insight Guide to help understand your specific themes as well as an Action Planning Guide with tips on how to apply them. It even tells you how to work most effectively with people who have different strengths.

If you have not had the opportunity to complete the StrengthsFinder assessment, I suggest that you purchase the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and use the code to complete the assessment online. If you have and it proved to be a valuable experience, invite your team to complete the assessment together. To increase the impact, many consultants, coaches and trainers (including myself) are available to facilitate a StrengthsFinder breakout session and build a team profile for you. I would be glad to help you find one – or you might even decide to give it a try on your own.

What is one way you know your team could benefit from a StrengthsFinder exercise? What types of leadership assessments has your team completed together in the past?

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or   follow him on Twitter.