Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: Strengths Based Leadership


It has been quite some time since I have been in a formal leadership position, but I am still striving to improve my skills in this area.  As a technical lead on many of the projects I interact with, leadership can be key to success and finding ways to work with customers (both nice and difficult) can be challenging at the best of times. 

My first experience with the concepts around strengths based discussion in the workplace happened several years ago when I took the strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment. I remember being floored with how accurate I felt the assessment was to my personality and the fact that the advice that was given was actionable and, more importantly, customized to my unique set of strengths.  Fast forward a few years, and I am still on the strengths based bandwagon, this time more from a leadership focus.

I really hesitate to call this a "book".  It is more of a reference.  The first part (up to additional resources) is essentially selling the idea of strengths based leadership.  It consists of some theory, references to numerous resource projects and Gallup polls, and some case studies on leaders in different areas.  The premise is that strong leaders use their strengths to accomplish what they need, and surround themselves with people whose strengths compliment their own.  The second part goes over the different strengths and discusses in bullet-point form how to harness that strength as a leader, and how to lead someone who has that strength.  I really found this part to be an exceptional reference filled with lots of good ideas and strategies.  Ideally, if you are having your whole team do the personal assessment, you can start to use the ideas presented in this book as a basis for governing how you interact with them.

I think the thing that stood out the most for me was the characteristics of a leader.  This part was found in the section called "Why do people follow".  It is interesting to look back at the leaders in your career or life and try to understand why you followed them.  No doubt, there were certainly people in "leadership positions" who you did not follow.  Sometimes you ask yourself why.  Was it personal?  What it professional?  Could you have made it work?  They claim that there are four basic needs of a follower and they are: trust, compassion, stability, and hope.  What I really liked is that in the additional resources section, when they were providing details about each strength, they focused the advice in these four sections. 

I would recommend this book as a reference for someone wanting to explore more about strengths and how you can draw on your strengths as you try to lead others (at home or at work).  I think the reference is great, but as with the first one, there is probably a ton of additional value in actually taking the leadership assessment that comes with the book.