Surprising Truths about Strengths-Based Leadership

Surprising Truths about Strengths-Based Leadership

By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN

“You will have many opportunities to lead during your own lifetime. As you will learn, the path to great leadership starts with a deep understanding of the strengths you bring to the table.”  Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

This is the time of year when many of us set new goals for ourselves.  These new goals often involve fixing things that we feel are our weaknesses.  We spend far less time thinking about our strengths and how we can leverage them to make us more effective as leaders.  The Gallup organization coordinated a research project in 2008 that surveyed more than one million work teams, conducted more than 20,000 in-depth interviews with leaders, and spoke with more than 10,000 “followers” around the world asking people why they followed the important leaders in their life. Results of their research launched a new perspective on the question, “What makes for good leadership?”  What they found was somewhat surprising –  that good leaders focus on their strengths and use them to their advantage.

In 2009, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie took these Gallup findings and wrote a book on Strengths-Based Leadership.  They drew three conclusions from the Gallup work:

  • The most effective leaders invest in their own strengths, and the strengths of their employees.
  • The most effective leaders find the “right” people to work with and strategize to maximize their team’s abilities. The leaders themselves do not need to be “well-rounded”, but their teams do.
  • The most effective leaders understand that their followers need trust, compassion, stability and hope from them.

Why Knowing Your Strengths Can Help You to Be a Better Nurse Leader

In analyzing how leaders can use these findings, Beth Weinstock suggests that recognizing the importance of strengths can quiet the inner critic of leaders who often feel that they need to be good at everything.  While it is important to work on your areas of weakness, knowledge about strengths can help leaders to build a team with individuals who have complementary gifts and talents.  It can also help explain why some work contexts feel satisfying and others don’t.  Fit, in the work place, is important. Leaders feel well-placed and gratified when the demands of the job fit with their best talents.

How to Identify Your Strengths

You may already have a good sense of what your leadership strengths are based on feedback that you have received.  In their book on Strengths-Based Leadership, Rath and Conchie provide the reader with a unique access code to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. After you complete the assessment, you will receive a personalized strengths-based leadership guide.  The instrument assesses 34 different areas of strength.  Based on your individualized results, you will have an opportunity to assess how strong you are in the 4 identified leadership domain areas (executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking).

Strengths-Based leadership can be very empowering. It is consistent with the values in both transformational leadership and authentic nursing leadership.  It is about unleashing your personal best and valuing what everyone brings to the work environment.  Self-knowledge is the key to great leadership and a building block of a healthy work environment.

Read to Lead

Gottleib, L, Gottleib, B. & Shamian, J. (2012). Principles of Strengths-Based Nursing Leadership for Strengths-Based Nursing Care: A New Paradigm for Nursing and Healthcare for the 21st Century. Nursing Leadership. Vol. 25 No. 2      

Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2009).  Strengths Based Leadership.  New York: Gallup Publishing.

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© 2013