Build on Strengths to Go for Greatness
Coach’s CornerThe Fundamentals of Strength Based Leadership

Build on Strengths to Go for Greatness

Weaknesses should be managed, balanced by self-awareness while in a leadership role

The debate continues: Is it better to be a jack of all trades or an expert and specialist in one thing who outsources weaknesses?

Let’s say you are a good guitar player but cannot sing. If you take singing lessons and work hard, you might become a decent or even good singer to go along with your good guitar playing. You might have a modicum of success in a music career.

But what if you focused only on your guitar playing and became a great guitarist? Then you could join a band that has a great singer and become a great band. You are now a rock star.

This is called a strengths-based approach.

The flip side is you’re taught to shore up your weaknesses from an early age. If you struggle with something like math or English, you might find yourself attending remedial classes or receiving tutoring and spending a lot of time on those areas of difficulty.

Most of us can only hope to go from poor to average with regard to developing our weaker skills. In the end, we resent all the hard work put in just to get by with those skills.

Unfortunately, even as adults, we often see our weaknesses and deficiencies much more than our strengths. There is a famous Bob Newhart skit on “MAD TV” in which he counsels a patient with this malady in just two short words: “Stop It!” (Find it at

In life and in business, going from good to great is a much smoother and ultimately more satisfying experience.

Let’s look at how a strengths-based approach can be applied to business. Briefly, we’ll explore what strengths-based leadership is and how you can use it to develop yourself and your team members.

Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” So, too, the No. 1 skill a great leader must have is to be self-aware.

The first step is for a leader to accept that it is OK to have a weakness or two. Then this self-aware leader must be attuned to his particular core competency and surround himself with people who are strong in areas of his weaknesses.

The acronym TEAM represents what this leader can accomplish: Together everyone achieves more.

All this comes with a big caveat. It is important not to ignore your weaknesses. More correctly, we must not only know them, but also manage them.

It is important not to define yourself or others solely based on strengths. We are all complex creatures and a mixture of good and not so good. What specific areas of strength should we look for in ourselves as leaders?

The four broad, overlapping areas of leadership strengths, as identified in the 2009 book “Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow,” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, are:

  • Executing.
  • Influencing.
  • Relationship building.
  • Strategic thinking.

Executing is the ability to get things done. A good executor is skilled at arranging and controlling tasks, events and people. He is consistent, focused and prepared to take responsibility for jobs.

John Maxwell defines leadership as simply “influence: nothing more, nothing less.” Relationship building can be defined as the ability to encourage people to work together toward a common goal or ambition. A strategic thinker is skilled at analyzing information, seeing links and connections, and thinking both inside and outside the box.

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Can you see any of these traits in yourself? If you are having a hard time deciding, take a strengths-based test and give one to your key employees.

Whether your business is a startup, a few years old or a generational business, it is never too late to focus on strengths-based leadership. Building your team this way will help get you to rock star status quickly.


Jason Adler is a John Maxwell-certified executive coach ( helping people and their organizations hire and keep quality employees.

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