Nearly a decade ago, Gallup unveiled the results of a landmark 30-year research project that ignited a global conversation on the topic of strengths. More than 3 million people have since taken Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment, which forms the core of several books on this topic, including the #1 international bestseller StrengthsFinder 2.0.
Organizations are quick to look for leaders who are great communicators, visionary thinkers, and who can also get things done and follow through. All these attributes are desirable and necessary for an organization to succeed. But of all the leaders Gallup has studied, they’ve yet to find one who has world class strength in all of these areas.
Thus, leaders who strive to be competent in all areas become the least effective leaders overall.
You’re a leader only if others follow. Leaders are only as strong as the connections they make with each person in their constituency, whether they have one follower or one million.
So what are the keys to being a more effective leader?
Gallup studied 10,000 followers — asked followers to tell them in their own words, why they follow the most influential leader in their life.
3 Key Findings from Gallup’s Research:
- The most effective leaders are always investing in their strengths. Leaders focus on the strengths of their team/employees, the odds of engagement goes up eightfold.
- The most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and then maximize their team. While the best leaders are not well rounded, the best teams are.
- The most effective leaders understand their followers needs — Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope
The path to great leadership starts with a deep understanding of the strengths you bring to the table.
The 4 Domains of Leadership Strength:
Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, Strategic Thinking
Leaders with dominant strength in the Executing domain know how to make things happen. When you need someone to implement a solution, these are the people who will work tirelessly to get it done. Leaders with a strength to execute have the ability to “catch” an idea and make it a reality.
Those who lead by Influencing help their team reach a much broader audience. People with strength in this domain are always selling the team’s ideas inside and outside the organization. When you need someone to take charge, speak up, and make sure your group is heard, look to someone with the strength to influence.
Those who lead through Relationship Building are the essential glue that holds a team together. Without these strengths on a team, in many cases, the group is simply a composite of individuals. In contrast, leaders with exceptional Relationship Building strengths have the unique ability to create groups and organizations that are much greater than the sum of their parts.
Leaders with great Strategic Thinking strengths are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be. They are constantly absorbing and analyzing information and helping the team make better decisions. People with strengths in this domain continually stretch our thinking for the future.
If you want to lead, it is critical to know what the people around you need and expect from you.
Followers Needs & Wants
It seems that followers have a very clear picture of what they want and need from the most influential leaders in their lives:
Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope
Trust — must be the “ do or die” foundation of leading.
Respect, integrity, and honesty are the outcomes of strong relationships built on trust. Relationship flat out trumps competence in building trust.
Compassion — Unfortunately, most leaders are hesitant to show genuine compassion for the people they lead, at least in the same way they would with a friend or family member.
They found that people expect more general positive energy and “compassion” from high-level organizational/global leaders — compared to much more intimate words (like caring) that followers used to describe their everyday leaders.
Stability — followers want a leader who will provide a solid foundation. They report that the best leaders were the ones they could always count on in times of need.
Followers also need to know that your core values are stable. Nothing creates stability as quickly as transparency.
Hope — This higher level need poses an interesting challenge; it appears that followers want stability in the moment and hope for the future.
When hope is absent, people lose confidence, disengage, and often feel helpless.
“I’ve never met an effective leader who wasn’t aware of his talents and working to sharpen them.” — NATO Commander Wesley Clark