Monday, March 18, 2013

Reviewing Tom Rath & Barry Conchie's Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow

I received Strengths Based Leadership prior to a workshop I attended with other ISC principals. Although the book is over 260 pages long, 135 pages of the book are descriptions of the 34 StrengthsFinder themes, 20 pages concern the research behind the book, and nearly ten pages are references. Strengths Based Leadership identifies three keys to being a more effective leader:

1. Knowing your strengths and investing in others' strengths
2. Getting people with the right strengths on your bus
3. Understanding and meeting the four basic needs of those who look for you to lead them

The book is organized in three parts. Part one is called Investing in Your Strengths, part two, the longest part, is entitled Maximizing Your Team, and part three is about understanding why people follow. Short introductions and conclusions are also included. In part two of Strengths Based Leadership, Rath and Conchie introduce us to four leaders who illustrate each of the four domains of leadership strength. Those four domains are executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. The leaders introduced include Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of Teach For America (executing), Simon Cooper, President of the Ritz-Carlton (influencing), Mervyn Davies, Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank (relationship building), and Brad Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of Best Buy (strategic thinking). I didn't think highlighting Brad Anderson was best since Best Buy's market isn't as strong as it once was; however, Strengths Based Leadership was written in 2008 and Brad Anderson retired over four years ago.

The 34 StrengthsFinder themes are grouped into the four domains of leadership strength based on a statistical factor analysis and a a clinical evaluation by Gallup's top scientists. I have bought into the strengths based philosophies and clearly see how certain people are better suited for certain positions. I think the best aspect of this book is having access to the StrengthsFinder 2.0 Assessment. Apparently this is unavailable on the Kindle edition. After inputing your unique access code online to take the assessment, you receive a personalized strengths-based leadership guide.

I have shared my assessment with several other people, and we have found it to be fairly accurate. According to the assessment, I am strongest in the strategic thinking domain (input, intellection, and learner) and weakest in the influencing domain (helping your team reach a much broader audience). My assessment also stated I'm strong in the achiever (a great deal of stamina and work hard) and connectedness (faith in the links between all things) themes. Those who have shared their assessments with me have also stated that they largely agree with their assessment outcomes.

I am glad I was gifted with this book because it has enabled me to better understand myself and shown me the importance of placing people in the right jobs. I do not see myself promoting strengths based assessments and discussions in the near future, but I now consider people's strengths far more than ever. Strengths Based Leadership is a simple read with much of it being material that can be skimmed, but new insights can be gained from reading the book.