Leadership Approaches – Strengths-Based Leadership

Share this:


Part of the following ministry resources: Christian Leadership, Empowerment, Transformational Leadership.

Leading According to Strengths

Understanding one’s strengths to improve relationships and regulate weaknesses is crucial to leadership effectiveness. Many studies validate this, including the survey of over 200,000 leaders by Zenger and Folkman.

Leadership training universally includes multiple forms of assessing personality, strengths and gifts. LifeandLeaderhsip.com focuses on three popular methods, DISC Profile, StrengthsFinder, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (section in development). I enthusiastically recommend these assessments for leadership enrichment. If the creative hand of God has given us inherent gifts and has orchestrated our lives for us to learn certain capabilities, it seems a matter of gratitude and stewardship to give them due attention. Experience also tells us we are less likely to experience fulfillment unless we express our natural orientation.

On the other hand, there are several reasons why we should refrain from saying only people with certain personalities or strengths clusters can do a specific task or role effectively. Here are a few reservations.

go to top

We sometimes “typecast” people and roles. As we watch roles performed by certain types, we may falsely assume that only those types can do it. This is unfortunate. Take acting for example. The history of cinema is full of instances where actors stepped outside of their usual persona, and in so doing brought a special quality to the role. So Robin Williams could be a desperately estranged husband and father in Mrs. Doubtfire and an inspiring, off-beat professor in Dead Poets Society. Similarly, people may be able to fill any number of leadership roles, even if not gifted for them. Certainly not all have the same degree of versatility, but when we consider God’s use of people in roles, the versatility is God’s not ours. For example, people often prefer sensitive, empathetic types for ministry roles, but this hardly describes some people God has used powerfully in ministry such as Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, and others. Our call is not to withhold ourselves until we find a fit, but to allow God to use us where we are and enliven in us that which the circumstances require.

Leadership Outside of Strengths

While God’s placement of people into roles certainly has a gift dimension, there are other factors:

  • He may discipline or humble us away from our self-centeredness by requiring obedient, faithful and sacrificial service in areas for which we are not best suited.
  • He may guide us away from preoccupation with our own fulfillment and potential by placing us in a role where we help others develop their gifts.
  • He may use people because they are the only ones willing or available in the proper timeframe.
  • He may work through a lesser gifted person whose efforts inspire or activate others.
  • He may refine a person in areas that are against his or her natural orientation.
  • He may expose our limited perceptions about a role and who best fits.
  • He may display his power as people accomplish what is clearly outside their own ability.
  • He may infuse a task with the unique contributions of those who are not an ideal match.
  • He may spark leadership gifts in someone by forcing them into the challenge and creativity of an uncomfortable fit.

go to top

It also is important to remember that even if one has the talents normally associated with a role, it is not enough. Nothing is more common than under-utilized talent. The prolific author, John Maxwell, has written Talent is Never Enough. He is certainly not anti-talent, but underscores that talent alone does not insure effectiveness unless combined with the right beliefs, initiatives, focus, preparation, practice, perseverance, and character.

Within this balance of insights, however, I still affirm the helpfulness of understanding one’s strengths as a tool toward improvement in life and leadership. This section helps toward that end.

Leadership and DISC PROFILE Styles

In addition to the extensive resources on DISC Personality Profile generally, and the section on Spiritual Gifts, the titles below look more extensively at how to use DISC to enhance leadership effectiveness.

go to top

Leadership and Clifton Strengths-Finder

There are several works that stress operating from one’s strengths and helping others do the same. The most widely used and well researched is by Marcus Buckingham. The Strengths-Based Leadership model was first introduced in Buckingham and Coffman’s first volume, First, Break all the Rules, which recounts the research through Gallup that revealed great managers help people discover and optimize their strengths. This is valuable to overall ministry leadership effectiveness, especially in strengthening ministry teams and motivating congregational volunteers.

The Gallup research discovered a set of 34 dominant themes that indicate people’s unique talents and strengths. These were arranged into a profile that was validated on over two million participants, the Clifton Strengths Finder that helps people discover where they are among the 34 themes.

There are a number of Strengths Finder titles. The list below places several under their specific application category. Since each book includes a code for you to take the online version of the profile, it is very important to get a NEW copy, else someone may have already activated the code.

go to top

The foundations:

The professional applications:

go to top

For fulfillment in one’s work or volunteer setting:

For life effectiveness in general:

go to top

Related Ministry Resources

See Other Ministry Resources on Christian Leadership:

See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry:

go to top