STRENGTHS-BASED LEADERSHIP, STYLES-BASED LEADERSHIP
- Leading According to Strengths
- Leading Outside of Strengths
- Leadership and DISC PROFILE Styles
- Leadership and StrengthsFinder
- Related Ministry Resources
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.
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.
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.
- Jeffrey Sugerman, Mark Scullard, and Emma Wilhelm, The 8 Dimensions of Leadership: DISC Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader — This features “The 8 Dimensions of Leadership Model” that is based on DISC, written by leaders of Inscape Publishing, who produce one of the most commonly used DISC profiles.
- Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton, People Styles at Work…And Beyond: Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better — This is based on the People Styles Model, which is an application of the same research on which DISC is based.
- Deborah Smith Pegues, Confronting Without Offending: Positive and Practical Steps to Resolving Conflict – A popularly-written, biblically-based guide on confrontation, integrating conflict styles, and DISC personality temperament.
- Kate Ward, Personality Style at Work: The Secret to Working with (Almost) Anyone– Uses the HRDQ, a four-personality model similar to the DISC Profile, to provide good insight into how people lead based on personality style.
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.
- Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently – The first book in the series revealing the research that effective managers focus on people’s strengths.
- Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths (Follow up to First Break All the Rules — includes online assessment) – The sequel to First, Break All the Rules, includes an explanation of the Clifton Strengths Finder assessment that helps people discover where they fall along the 34 dominant themes that indicate people’s strengths.
- Tom Rath, Strengths-Finder 2.0 – Although the version of the Clifton Strengths Finder linked in this book is outdated, the explantation the 34 themes is still quite helpful.
- Marcus Buckingham, Standout: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Movement. – A sequel to the Strengths-Finder profile designed to reveal one’s top two strengths, optimize applications in the workplace, and increase understanding of how others perceive one’s strengths.
The professional applications:
- Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow – The place to start for strengths-based leadership development. Best used in association with the other volumes below.
- Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently – (Same as referenced above) This was the book that spawned the Strengths-Based movement, resulting from an extensive study about how effective managers interact with others, particularly in affirming their strengths.
- Marcus Buckingham, The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success – Builds on the Strengths-Based approach to present the “controlling insight” that opens one to exponential effectiveness in the three areas of management, leadership, and overall success.
- Rosanne Liesveld, Jo Ann Miller, and Jennifer Robison, Teach with Your Strengths: How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students – Applies the strengths-based model to the profession of teaching.
For fulfillment in one’s work or volunteer setting:
- Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths (Follow up to First Break All the Rules — includes online assessment) – (Same as referenced above) While the profile has been updated from what is found in the book, this volume presents helpful insight into how to activate the strengths-based philosophy in one’s life overall.
- Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance – Shows how to use the Strengths-Based philosophy in one’s professional role.
For life effectiveness in general:
- Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, How Full Is Your Bucket: Positive Strategies for Work and Life
- Tom Rath and Jim Harter, Well-Being: The Five Essential Elements
- Albert L. Winseman, D.Min., Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., and Curt Liesveld, M. Div., Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community
Related Ministry Resources
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