What Leading with your Strengths does.
Leading with your Strengths is having your cake and eating it too!!
Let me explain: Your strengths make you uniquely capable of making a great contribution. Its your way of offering the very best of what you have in the service of others, so you can rest knowing you have given the very best you have.
But the extra surprise is, that it actually feels fantastic when you do what you are great at. When you use the gifts God ‘tooled’ into you, He has set it up so that it feels fantastic!
This is especially important because it is a very sustainable form of leadership.
These days we are all being asked to do more with less and that usually translates to squeezing more out of people – including yourself. So if you are going to give of yourself, and give more than you ever have, then at least get the reward that God intended. Use your Strengths, offer your very best to the world and get replenished through the joy of doing what you do best. That’s one of the values of leading with your strengths.
What leading with your Strengths is not.
Now, lets distinguish between Strength, [experience, skill and knowledge] and authority, because we can lead from any of these places.
Leading from authority is a ‘rules’ based command. It is all about instruction and execution. It demands obedience and is loaded with consequence should the follower not comply. There is very little room for creativity. Its probably more management than Leadership.
Leading from experience, skill or knowledge are all viable contributors, but they are often isolated or specific. E.g my experience leading kids in the nursery, doesn’t necessarily translate into strong adult leadership. My experience here is specific to the nursery and so it is somewhat isolated.
Leading from your Strengths is much more internal and enduring. If I have a strength to think strategically, I can bring that talent to bare on any role in my life. It is not grounded in a specific experience, but rather a part of who I am. So it is repeatable in any circumstance as I choose. It has much more freedom and feels more natural. So leading with your Strengths is different than using experience, or authority.
What you have to have in order to Lead with your Strengths.
The answer is language. You have to have a common language.
Leaders aren’t much good without followers and so leading with your strengths has a follower implication also: How do I show those I am leading, how to use their Strengths as they lead?
You may know what your Strengths are, but how do you share them with others? Does that language allow them to share their strong points with you in a way that provides common understanding?
This point is especially important because if you are the only one who knows where you are strong, how can the team around you support you in your Strengths? How can they inspire you in your Strengths? They have no language to interact with you around your Strengths. Furthermore, if you don’t know what their Strengths are, how can you inspire them? What shared language or words do you use to speak to a strength and call it out in someone you are leading?
For this reason I advocate using Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment to identify Strength. It is a very scalable and simple assessment that produces immediate results and boils them down to 5 simple words. This makes it easy to remember where people are strong and it injects a new language into an organization that becomes a common tool for describing and interacting around strength.
Leaders and followers now use the same language to describe their strength. You can then lead using that language and everyone in the organization understands precisely what you are talking about.
You can also empower others to act on their Strengths and the whole organization will have a clear expectation of what action is coming, because of the shared Strengths language.
You need to have a Strengths language, in order to be able to lead with it.
Its about JOY.
Finally, using your Strengths is as much about joy as it is about accomplishment. It’s about how you feel when you do what you do best. The fact of the matter is that when you use the talents God gave you, it just feels great. God has wired you in such a way that when you function in the gifting He built into you – your Strengths, it rewards you with a sense of well being. A sense that what you are doing is right and good. It is just good leadership to put your best out there as an example of what you expect from others. Not just in terms of productivity, but that you want their maximum joy also.
This is critically important in leadership because the currency of a leader is trust and authenticity. Followers are reluctant to follow if they sense a lack of authenticity and trustworthiness. A leader who is boldly engaging in their Strength and is transparent enough to show their joy in it, will be seen by the followers as authentic and believable.
They will be more inclined to follow and so in a sense, leading with your strengths is a fast track to equity with your followers and joy in the process.
Do what you do best & show others how to do the same and watch the level of engagement of your people climb.
Two questions then:
- What are your Strengths?
- If you plan to build a Strengths based organization, what language will you use?