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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Strengths Based Leadership - Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group

Strengths Based Leadership - Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow
Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

I have just started reading this book. As you might be able to tell from my other books, I am on a quest to understand leadership. I am looking to understand my leadership style, as well as, understanding other peoples' styles. I am most curious to learn what my style is, how I can improve it and how I might become more effective. Also, I want to understand other peoples' style so I can learn from them, decide which parts of their styles I want to emulate and learn from their experiences.

So far, this book has talked about different categories of leadership characteristics. I don't have a clue as to mine yet. A special code comes with the book for me to test my style using the StrengthFinders questionnaire. This book uses the data from 40 years of work by the Gallup Organization studying top leaders, interviewing them, and also, talking with the followers of those leaders. It should prove to be an interesting read and study.

I am still reading Tony Dungy's Mentor Leadership. I don't know if that is a term used in this book. I am agreeing with the majority of what Dungy describes in his book. Maybe because it is my leadership style. I like to mentor people. I value people and let them know I am truly interested in them. As such, I form a following of people, a loyalty - not just from them to me, but me to them. That bond has been mentioned in the Strengths Based Leadership book, but again, I don't know my full leadership style yet.

When I finish the book, I'll update my post to let you know my leadership style. What I have found to be refreshing so far is the fact that top leaders know their strengths and leverage them. They don't try to improve their weaknesses, rather, they surround themselves with those people who are strong in those areas. So, the concept of a "fully rounded" leader does not prove out to be correct. Unless, of course, we are describing their waistline.

Epilogue: I have finished reading the book. Very interesting insights about leadership and myself.

The book discussed leadership from both the leader’s perspective and the follower’s. As a result, I found it interesting to see what followers really wanted from leaders. They did an extensive study from the follower's perspective, so I feel the information is very relevant. As leaders, we are told our followers want clear vision, decisive decisions, motivation, unwavering direction and great communications. Yet, when they tallied up the data after talking to the followers, they found very different results.

What Followers Want
Followers want, according to the data:

Trust – they want to be able to trust their leaders.They want leaders to say what they're going to do and do what they say. They want a single standard, not something that's special for the leader and the followers can't partake. They want integrity and honesty. What was even more interesting is the matter of broken trust. Leaders can make mistakes. Leaders need to admit their mistakes. But very few leaders can recover from broken trust. For those who do, it is extremely tough. Most leaders never gain their following back from broken trust.

Compassion - followers want compassion. Hey, the leader didn't start out in the leader position. At one point, the leader was in my shoes. They felt the pain of poor leadership, the broken plans, the dreams that died, etc. Somehow, this person broke through and became the leader. I want them to remember what it was like being in the follower's position. Let me know you care about me as a person and not just what I can do for you.

Stability - boy, is this a big one with today's unstable environments. No one feels secure in their jobs. Anybody's position can be eliminated. Families are being torn apart. The two foundational institutions we derive stability from - employment and family - seem to be on the verge of collapse. A leader who can provide a stable platform for me to stand on will get my vote.Don't show me a vision where, at the end of it, there is no place for me. I need the stability.

Hope - Without hope, the heart of the people fail. We all need hope: hope for a better life, hope to get out of this mess we're in, hope for my children, hope that we'll live and not die, hope for ... You finish the sentence. Politicians are elected on the fact they promise hope for a brighter future (and rarely do they deliver - a topic for another day).

So, leadership isn't about the leader, it's about the follower. People who can provide those four things, wrap them into a vision, provide direction, and make decision are leaders.

My Leadership Styles
Are you interested in knowing my leadership styles? Here are my results from taking the Strength-based Leadership assessment. Yours will be different.

Responsibility - Responsibility is important to me. Once I say I will do something, I will do it. I'm dedicated to the cause. My word is my bond and I hold to it. If at some point, I learn I can't finish something or hold to my word, I have to go back to the person whom I promised and ask if I can break it. If they say no, I deliver because my word is important above all. By the same token, I hold others to their word. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Don't try to wave it off. I'll hold you to your responsibility. I don't tolerate irresponsibility very well. Foretold is forewarned, if you work with me.

Achiever - I am a high achiever. Always have been, always will be. I don't know how to be otherwise. Goes way back to my childhood. I am not in competition, but I must achieve. In Boy Scouts, I didn't just stop at Eagle Scout - the highest rank - I continued earning merit badges beyond the requirement. In school, I pushed myself to excel in subjects. In life, I push myself to be the best in my field and prove it by writing books, papers, articles and even, book reviews. Also, I am not just about directing the troops. I have no problem jumping into the hole with the rest of the guys, getting my hands dirty and working along side people. The flip side is I like to work with others who are achievers. Together, we accomplish great things. I don't tolerate lazy people or slackers. While they may be laid back and chilling, I don't like it. If you're gonna chill, I don't want to see it.

Relator - I like working with people. I like directing people, orgainzing people, watching people and I frustrate myself because I try to figure them out. I want to know what makes them tick. I have a very specific definition for the word "friend." If I call you friend, you are in a select circle of people. I am very loyal to those and they are very loyal to me. Others not in the circle are called acquaintances. And then there are the people I don't know.

Strategic - I think very strategically. I need to see how what I am doing fits into the overall scheme of things. I have a knack of seeing the potential of people and situations. I quickly formulate alternative paths of reaching the ultimate goal, weighting them and then deciding the best course of action. I remain flexible through re-evaluating the situation and making adjustments based upon the same thinking patterns. The downside for some is my flexibilty. If you don't like change, I'm your worst enemy because I provide a ton of solutions, discuss them with you, and tell you the best method. I then might change that as we go down the trail which could cause you some consternation.

Futuristic - I see the future. I live in the future. I predict the future. I'm always looking forward. I ground my visions in reality and support it with the logic, facts, data and more.

So, if you really want to know your leadership and how to work with different types of leaders, read this book. Take the assessment and learn/leverage your style.

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