Strengths-Based Leadership – The Ultimate Guide

Over the years, leadership styles have undergone drastic changes in all social and corporate aspects. In the quest to find the most efficient leadership style, researchers have pinpointed Strengths-Based Leadership as a theory that has delivered outstanding results in managing teams, corporations, and even countries.

Since it has received such popularity and appealed to leaders worldwide, it becomes legit to ask what exactly Strengths-Based Leadership is and what difference it makes.

Therefore, we scrutinized the theory, and in this guide, we are going to share everything you need to know about what makes a great leader and how to utilize the perks of Strengths-Based Leadership into your leadership style.

What Is Strengths-Based Leadership?

Strengths-Based Leadership is a leadership style that puts an emphasis on a person’s or group’s strengths to boost their productivity, efficiency, and engagement. In other words, instead of focusing on what a person can’t do, it encourages the person to take advantage of what he/she can do.

This puts the leader in the position to become aware of his/her weaknesses and surround him/herself with people who can complement them. Also, the theory implies that effective leader needs to recognize other people’s strengths and use them to enhance the team’s productivity.

Related: 24 Best Leadership Books of All Time

What Are the Benefits of Strength-Based Leadership?

Strength-Based Leadership offers a different perspective for successful leadership. As the Gallup research has shown, leaders worldwide show diversity not only in their leadership style but in their personalities as well.

Yet, those leaders who decided to invest in their team’s strengths and pay less attention to their strengths have proven to create a more engaging environment that has several benefits:

Leaders Admit That They Need Help

When leaders tend to appear omnipotent, it often creates strong boundaries between them and their team. Yet, admitting that they need help makes them appear more human and makes them more approachable.

In addition, managers and leaders often feel relieved when they clearly state that they are not superhuman and need outsourcing. That way, they do not only delegate tasks easier but share responsibility too.

Increased Motivation and Job Satisfaction

When team members are given the opportunity to use their strengths, they feel more confident and assertive. They feel productive and give their best to perform the assignments with maximum efficiency and creativity.

Applying the Strength-Based Leadership method can boost the overall team’s motivation and job satisfaction.

Cohesive Team

When leaders apply the Strength-Based approach, they select individuals that add value and versatility to the team. This implies that every team member uses a set of skills he/she excels at without worrying about their weaknesses.

The reason is quite simple. The team has a diverse group of people covering all the areas needed for the job or the project. Such an organizational structure is highly cohesive, functional, and productive.

What Is the Objective of Strength-Based Leadership?

Strength-Based Leadership changes the whole leadership concept. It is proportionally different from the traditional leadership style that focuses on what’s wrong rather than what’s positive.

Therefore, Strength-Based Leadership empowers leaders to promote a positive work environment and foster productivity and efficiency.

Since we live in turbulent times, employee engagement is going down because employees are often faced with high-stress levels, uncertainty, and constant change. These have an adverse effect on workers’ motivation and often lead to lowered productivity, conflicts, absenteeism, and inefficiency.

Leaders are also under pressure to delegate tasks, engage their workers, and monitor their performance while having regular meetings and planning future projects.

By engaging core personal strengths via Strength-Based Leadership, leaders can bring out the most prominent features in themselves and their employees and boost interest and performance. The Strength-Based approach aims to understand and help individuals grasp their strengths and develop them to bring about perspectives for success and satisfaction.

What Are the Qualities of a True Leader?

The Gallup researchers have shown that leaders’ personality features are never identical. They drastically differ in their leadership styles and how they tackle issues and promote changes.

It is also a common fact that no leader is capable of doing everything and that all leaders have weaknesses or so-called ‘blind spots.’ However, most successful leaders do share qualities that make them stand out as game-changers. The following are the most prominent:

Dedication and Persistence

Successful leaders have a vision that they strive to achieve, but they are well aware that they need to go through numerous challenges and foster changes to get to the end goal.

They are dedicated to overcoming difficulties and finding new ways to reach the goal. While doing so, no matter how overwhelming the process is, they are determined enough to thrive even in unfavorable circumstances.

Strengths and Weaknesses Awareness

Even though leaders are expected to have more capabilities than any ordinary people, it is completely wrong to perceive them as people with superpowers. The same applies to how leaders perceive themselves.

Namely, a true leader knows what his/her strengths are and has a clear vision of how to make use of them. Yet, he/she is also aware of the underlying weaknesses, so they surround by experts in every field for guidance and advice.

Internal Moral Values

We might have an idea that leaders need to be tough and even ruthless. However, the line is thick between being disciplined and having high expectations and being relentless.

Leaders who have a highly developed sense of ethics and morality tend to be more sympathetic, understanding, and charismatic.

Those leaders have more followers, and their requests and ideas are more vigorously followed. People around them feel attached and tend to show a higher degree of loyalty and respect.

Adaptability and Resilience

Leaders are bound to agree that, more often than not, things don’t go the way they were initially planned. Therefore, the leader or manager must act swiftly and adapt to the newly occurred turn of events.

Good leaders can see possible changes before they actually happen and think ahead of what project modifications are necessary to achieve the end goal. Even if things start to fall apart, a resilient leader is skilled enough to tackle the problem, has better solving-problem skills, and focuses on what can be done in the future, not what’s been lost.

Honesty and Reliability

Leaders have a tremendous responsibility towards the people they work with and the society around them. While not every leader is trustworthy and straightforward, those who boast these features enjoy high success and appreciation.

Empowering and Caring

A good leader doesn’t give orders or expect blind obedience. Rather, he/she helps others develop their strengths and guides them to self-determination. Instead of just utilizing other people’s qualities, a positive leader is able to direct their team members to become as much self-reliable and proficient as possible.

That way, people are likely to feel empowered, appreciated, and valued. Besides, a good leader is not likely to lose his/her temper when his/her team members make random mistakes but tries to find a way to make them learn from their mistakes.

What Is Strength-Based Leadership Theory?

Strength-Based Leadership Theory entails the same idea of empowering people’s strengths instead of working on their weaknesses. It is also known as Strenght-Based Organizational Management (SBOM), and it finds its purpose in organizational and corporate environments.

The theory is, in fact, a leadership method that aims to increase organizational performance, efficiency, and productivity by the constant development of people’s strengths and taking advantage of the available resources.

The theory defines the concept of strength as someone’s ability to perform an activity to an almost perfect level on a constant basis. It implies that the more an individual invests in their strengths, the higher their performance success. A leader, therefore, is responsible for recognizing and dutifully investing in his/her team’s strengths.

The theory became vastly popular when the two Gallup researchers Tom Rath and Barry Conchie released their book, Strength-Based Leadership: Great Leaders (2009), Teams, and Why People Follow, offering scientifically and research-based answers on what makes a successful leader.

To do this, they scrutinized hundreds of interviews with leaders worldwide, thousands of polls, surveys, and team studies to highlight three essential tenets:

  1. All effective leaders are willing to invest in their team members’ strengths;
  2. Successful leaders are aware of their weaknesses, can assess other people’s strengths and weaknesses, and surround themselves with the right people;
  3. Effective leaders give their best to understand what their followers need and try to meet their expectations.

The authors emphasized that leaders have distinguishing features that make them unique:

  • Authentic style: Successful leaders never share their strengths and weaknesses and never mimic other leaders.
  • Versatility: Following personal instincts, thinking outside the box, and focusing on the big picture have been some of the distinguishing features that make good leaders stand out.
  • Awareness of personal flaws: Successful leaders understand that no one can be good at everything, so they surround themselves with people who complement their weaknesses.

What is Performance-Based Leadership?

Performance-Based Leadership is a systematic management and leadership approach that focuses on achieving results through applying smarter and more effective work methods to obtain organizational success.

This system reorganizes the roles within the team or organization to maximize their potential and increase their efficiency without putting pressure on employees or making them work harder. It is also oriented to increasing accountability and transparency throughout the organization while working on priorities and achieving set goals.

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Website: HIGH5 test

Emma Williams is an organizational psychologist, certified strengths coach and content associate at HIGH5 test.

She is an avid positive psychology practitioner with more than 25 years of international experience in both consulting and leadership roles.