Are you an Effective Leader?

March 17, 2009 : General Team Building

Have you ever thought “far better to give this part of the project to Joe, rather than Joanne …” or “Joe doesn’t seem to plan things like I do but he still delivers – how does that work?”.

Maximillion Lead Facilitator Richard Brown reviews Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s Strengths Based Leadership – Great leaders, teams, and why people follow. This is The Gallup Organisation’s new book, which takes their strengths-based approach to a new level, identifying three keys to being a more effective leader by using your strengths and those of your staff.

Using an impressive amount of data – a million work teams, 50,000 in-depth interviews with leaders, and 20,000 interviews with followers of leaders – Gallup summarised that the most effective leaders:

  • always invest in strengths
  • surround themselves with the right people and then maximise their team
  • understand their followers’ needs

Being a number-crunching company, Gallup’s vast research database shows that when an organisation’s leadership is focussed on strengths, staff engagement is 73% as opposed to only 9% with non-strengths focussed leadership.

The book takes as examples four successful leaders from diverse sectors – Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America; Simon Cooper, President of The Ritz-Carlton group, Mervyn Davies, Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank and Brad Anderson, CEO of huge US electronics chain Best Buy – and analyses, through their StrengthsFinderTM profiles and detailed personal interviews, what it is that makes them exceptional leaders.

It moves on to discuss what strong teams have in common:

  • Conflict doesn’t destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results
  • Strong teams prioritise what’s best for the organisation and then move forward
  • Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work
  • Strong teams embrace diversity
  • Strong teams are magnets for talent

The authors discuss “understanding why people follow” – for someone to be a leader, obviously they need people to be followers, and through their research with 20,000 “followers”, Gallup found the most commonly mentioned words describing what leaders “contribute to the followers’ lives” – Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. (Given the recent banking crisis and furore over bonuses and pensions, these words have a certain “resonance”!)

The second half of the book demonstrates how to take the StrengthsFinderTM assessment via the Gallup website (each copy of this book contains a code to allow access); a guide to the 34 Strengths themes (see below), and considerable detail on how to manage with your own strengths. When you take the assessment via the code contained in the book, you will receive a highly customised Strengths-based Leadership Guide listing your top five themes of strength, and suggestions for leading with each theme.

If you have already taken the test through the book Strengthsfinder 2.0, you are able to log in to your results again, and receive an updated Leadership Guide.

As ever, with books from Gallup, it is an easy, informative and enjoyable read.

Memorable quotes:

  • If you focus on people’s weaknesses, they lose confidence” (Mervyn Davies)
  • “The most effective leaders know better than to try to be someone they are not.”
  • “Leaders stay true to who they are – and then make sure they have the right people around them. Those who surround themselves with similar personalities will always be at a disadvantage in the long run to those who are secure enough in themselves to enlist partners with complementary strengths.”

Read Richard’s profile here

Download Richard’s white paper – Background to Gallup & Clifton StrengthsFinder

For further information on leadership development at Maximillion, please contact our L&D Consultant Sandy Smith and on 0131 333 0066.

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