Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director
Tom Rath’s book Strengths Based Leadership builds on the basic principles discussed in the well-known book StrengthsFinder. Gallup has studied the strengths of well knowns leaders from around the world for over 30 years. Their research – condensed into this book – discusses what strengths the most successful leaders have and what great teams (their followers) need and expect from exceptional leaders.
Many of us have read books about leadership and the five, seven or 10 characteristics of successful leaders. However, Rath points out that the fastest way to fail at leadership is to lead by imitation. In Gallup’s studies there is only one characteristic that all strong leaders share; successful leaders know their strengths and limitations. They use their strength like “a carpenter uses his tools.” A leader cannot be all things to all people. However, by knowing their strengths and limitations strong leaders are able to focus on what they do well and surround themselves with individuals strong in the areas where they are weak, creating a strong supportive team.
Building strong teams takes time and energy. Getting individuals with diverse, yet complementary strengths on a team is a good start. But that is not enough to make a team successful. Leaders must continually invest in each person’s strengths and build better relationships among the group. What are the signs of a strong teams? Gallup’s research shows that strong, successful teams share the following characteristics:
Focus on results – Instead of becoming more isolated during difficulty times strong teams come together. They gain strength from cohesion. They can argue, but in the end they know they are all working towards the same goal.
Prioritize what’s best for the organization – They consistently put what is best for the organization ahead of their egos. Once a decision is made the team rallies to help one another be successful.
Commitment to personal and work life – They bring the same level of energy to their family and social lives as they do to their companies. They feel their lives are balanced.
Embrace diversity – A team that embraces diversity of age, gender, race, and strengths brings balance to the whole. Teams that are engaged view individuals through the lens of their strengths, thereby eliminating superficial barriers.
Magnets for talent – Everyone wants to be on a strong team. Your star players see that they can make an impact and demonstrate their strengths.
Effective leaders bring together a broad group of people to carry out an organization’s goals. In order to understand why leaders are successful it is not only important to understand what a strong team looks like, but why people follow that leader. From 2005-2008 Gallup polled 10,000 followers (average people). They determined that there are four things that followers look for in a good leader:
Trust – Once a trusting relationship is established people can complete projects in the fraction of the time and become a high performing team.
Compassion – Leaders that care about their team project a more positive energy. People want to follow leaders that exude a positive bias.
Stability – Transparency is the best way to quickly create a feeling of stability in a group.
Hope – Followers want hope for the future and guidance on how to get there. Knowing that things can and will be better in the future is an excellent motivator.
Knowing the characteristics of strong teams and understanding what teams look for in successful leaders provides us with the tools for better leadership and building more successful teams. Whether the team you work with is association or AMC staff, a volunteer board or committee members, knowing what makes a strong team and what they are looking for in a leader is the first step to creating strong leadership teams.
For more information on StrengthsFinder and strengths-based leadership check out this post.