We all have certain talents, strengths that make us unique but often we don't fully recognize our strengths and we tend to focus more on our weaknesses, on non-strengths that need to be fixed. When we are aware of our strengths and use them we can unlock our potential and we literally feel stronger. When we focus on our ‘weaknesses’ … we don’t feel energised or good about ourselves.

Less control, more empowerment and trust

Nowadays it can be advantageous for organizations to foster an environment where entrepreneurship, risk taking (within boundaries), creativity and inventiveness are expected and rewarded. This implies a different approach to management control and a different role from leaders. Less control, more empowerment and trust. Leaders have to foster a power that is derived from respect, not from rules and command & control.

Human Capital

Does your company consider employees to be an asset or a liability? Control focussed or commitment focussed HR.

When a company cares about their employees and believes that employees are an important asset to the company they will invest in their people. This is according to the Resource Based View of the Firm Theory (Barney, 1991) and Nishii et al. (2008) call this an employee-oriented philosophy whereby the organization  will enact commitment-focussed HR activities with an emphasize on service quality and employee wellbeing. In line with the Social Exchange Theory the main idea is that if employees believe that the company cares about the wellbeing of their employees and are investing in them, employees will reciprocate this with positive behaviour. Organizational success is only possible when you consider employees as assets and unlock, develop, appreciate and reward the talents within your organization.

So what sets the most successful managers apart ?

They don’t lead from a position of command and control, they bring out the best of their people, they know what their own and what their employee’s strengths are. People thrive when their strengths are recognized, appreciated and utilized, when they are able to do their best everyday and when they are being coached by their leader and get ample opportunities to develop.

Effective leaders invest in their own strengths, and the strengths of their employees. Understanding and applying your strengths will help you to improve your performance, confidence and engagement.

'The most successful leaders push the boundaries of thinking and possibility, looking for new and innovative ways of doing things to achieve the organisation’s goals, while advancing their own career. They never stand still and they adopt four ‘stretch leadership habits’: sharing vision; sparking engagement; skilfully executing; and sustaining progress. In doing so, they create: a clear sense of purpose; a passionate and engaged workforce; clear, scalable processes that deliver value to the customer; and a culture of peak performance and continuous improvement' (source: Optimize Your Strengths: Use Your Leadership Strengths To Get The Best Out Of You And Your Team, by James Brook and Dr Paul Brewerton (Wiley, 2016).

Reflection and self-awareness

Strengths-based leadership requires you to be fully aware of your own unique strengths. Makes sense doesn’t it… but I’ve often experienced that leaders don’t take time for (self)reflection, they’re just way too busy for that. Busy moving from task to task and from meeting to meeting, checking their phone/email messages continuously and putting out fires. In the meantime they may feel inadequate, frustrated, stressed out and tired. Self-awareness is the key for emotional intelligence and truly effective leaders are distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill (Daniel Goleman).

It’s your strengths – the things you’re good at, enjoy doing and that energize you–provide your best opportunities for growth and success. Many successful organizations are now embracing a strengths-based development approach. 'More HR professionals have been implementing strength-based approaches that apply employees' natural abilities or strengths in the workplace. Employees become more engaged because they're absorbed in their work and experience more positive emotions throughout the workday. According to recent Gallup research, 457 of Fortune 500 companies apply strength-based methods in some capacity, impacting nearly 14 million employees, which has more than doubled over the past five years' (full article on HR Executive Online)

What are strengths?

There are many definitions, I work with Strengthscope and like their definition: 'Strengths are underlying qualities that energise you, contribute to your personal growth and lead to peak performance'. The building of leadership strengths can lead to more positive an authentic leadership behaviours.

Research suggests that many leaders have little awareness or insight into their strengths and leadership behaviours and how this has an impact on their team members. For leadership behaviours, the perception by others is crucial, because how your behaviours are perceived by others, will have a direct impact on for instance employee engagement, the organizational culture and overall performance. 

Strengths-based organisations

Focusing on Strengths enables individuals and teams to be more motivated and energised in the role that they do, which leads to more commitment, engagement, willingness to go that extra mile for the company and increased loyalty to the company. An example of a strengths-based organisation is Facebook. Lori Goler, the VP of People Operations, has shaped the company into becoming a Strengths-Based Organization.

Strengths-based Performance Management

'At Facebook managers are told performance reviews should be 80% focused on strengths'. 

'Today’s organizations should closely examine their performance processes and push toward simplification and strengths-based assessment and coaching. The days of traditional appraisals and forced ranking are coming to an end; performance management is now a tool for greater employee engagement' (source: Deloitte Human Capital Trends).


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