Customer Reviews: Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow
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on September 17, 2012
I'm glad Rath and Conchie wrote this book to build on the strengths movement and help us understand the connection between strengths and leadership. Before I go into specifics, you should know that the leadership strength themes are the same themes found in StrengthsFinder 2.0. This book also includes a passcode to take the same StrengthsFinder 2.0 test, but the results report is different. This new leadership version of the StrengthsFinder results report gives strategies for leading with your top five strengths, breaks your strengths down into three predominant strength categories, and it lets you plot the strengths of your team.

If you buy the book, here's what you can expect to find inside:

Part One: Investing in Your Strengths
-Don't Lead by Imitation. Different leaders have different strengths and talents. Learn about the one leader you know least about--yourself.
-Find Your Leadership Strengths. Leaders are often unaware when it comes to something of critical important to them--their personality.
-A Long-term Investment. People who are aware of their strengths and build self-confidence early on will reap increasing advantage that continues to grow over a lifetime.

Part Two: Maximizing Your Team
-Successful leaders surround themselves with the right people and build on each individual's strengths.
-What makes a great leadership team? Based on Gallup research, four unique leadership strength areas emerged: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. Every individual on a leadership team needs to be well rounded in these areas.
-The four strength themes for leadership are introduced. They are: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.
-What do strong teams have in common? A strong focus on results, ability to consistently keep the bigger picture in view, a healthy work-life balance, embracing diversity, and thrives on intense competition.

Part Three: Understanding Why People Follow
-If you want to lead, it is critical to know what the people around you need and expect from you.
-Why do people follow? Followers' four basic needs: trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

Conclusion: Leadership That Lasts Beyond a Lifetime
-Extraordinary leaders do not strive for personal success as success lies with those who follow.

Additional Resources
-Taking StrengthsFinder
-Leading With Your Strengths: A Guide to the 34 Themes
- The Research (Behind StrengthsFinder, Work Team Engagement, and Why People Follow)

All in all a strong book that I recommend if you liked SF 2.0. If you are a leadership fan like I am, another outstanding book you should consider is Leadership 2.0.
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on March 2, 2009
Rath and Conchie have provided us with a helpful tool for fine-tuning our own leadership capacity. Using statistical factor analysis of data in Gallup's database, the authors detail how balanced leadership teams have strengths within four Leadership Domains: Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building, Influencing, and Executing. The authors relate that while individuals are rarely balanced, teams always should be. Leadership Teams operating in these four domains work both to serve the four primary needs of their constituencies and to execute their primary organizational responsibilities.

Using a recent Gallup review of data from 10,000 followers, the authors also report that followers report surprising agreement on four of their primary needs: trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

Leaders who use the code that comes with the book to take the online Strengthsfinder assessment ([...]) to determine their Top 5 Strengths are provided with a customized Strengths-Based Leadership report that help them understand their Top 5 Strengths and a Strengths-Based Leadership Guide that provides detailed advice on how to use each of their Top 5 Strengths to meet the four primary needs.

Leaders who read this book will have a deepened appreciation of both their own leadership abilities and of the degree to which they lead best when they work in team. The four Leadership Domains and the four primary needs of followers provide leaders with a rich paradigm for considering new approaches in attacking organizational priorities.

Highly recommended.
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on March 18, 2010
I found the on-line test interesting, and at least for me, seemingly accurate. However, the book consists of about 30 pages describing the theory behind the test and a few ideas on considering strengths while leading. The remainder of the book is just descriptions of each of the strengths. The book leaves me wondering how to best use my strengths as well as those of others I'm leading.

The on-line portion includes a worthless "Leadership Guide" report which is comprised of all too obvious advice including: "When making decisions, discuss options candidly and thoroughly;" "Be aware of your own biases;" "Take time to study the strategies employed by effective leaders you respect or admire." Not only are the statements obvious, they aren't really related to my particular strengths.

The "Leadership Report" is full of vague statements like: "It's very likely that you might have extra energy to work hard when you are acquiring information to broaden your knowledge base;" "Perhaps you want to deepen your understanding of certain topics;" "It's very likely that you now and then have moments when you are keenly aware of things around you." Are these written by the same person that writes horoscopes?

The test is worth taking. However, neither the book nor the website provide any really direction on how to best use your skills or lead by them. It is very likely that might enjoy taking the test now and then. But I doubt you'll get much out of the book.
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on April 26, 2009
`Strengths' is the new currency. The Gallup group began isolating and understanding people from the talent perspective over a decade ago. Names like Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath have brought to light a powerful medium for understanding what excites us and these insights make better work places and happier lives. For business it is about productivity and employee engagement; for employees it is about feeling good about your choice in where and what you do almost every day. Both are big! Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie takes strengths application to the next level: Leadership and for me, inherently part of this is great management. This work further develops the strengths of teams into four leadership domains. They are: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking. I found this distilling of a team's strengths into these domains a way to conceptually simplify very important areas of focus and understand where each member might excel in their performance. This seemed especially relevant to the achievement of an organization's strategic plan. Knowing which key individuals bring the most energy to the different aspects of moving an organization forward is not only critical to success, but even more so to keeping a competitive edge.
The second theme in this work is identifying the "Followers Four Basic Needs": Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. This is also a compelling framework for supporting a work environment that helps people act at their best.
This book will be very helpful if you are interested in strength based applications and not deficit or weakness improvement approaches. I suggest some foundation in strengths based work before utilizing this book, like Strengths Finder 2.0 and Now Discover Your Strengths, to get greater depth on its offering.
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on April 9, 2012
Be careful, this book does have an access code even on the Kindle version. Amazon sends it along in an email, so don't delete it!
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on July 17, 2011
I'll admit that I didn't pay for the book, but I'm glad my boss did. The main lure of the book is the secret code that leads to a fairly involved online survey about tasks and scenarios that you prefer or may enjoy. Once you're finished, it provides your results in the following domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. Each domain consists of descriptions of skills that fall within it. When I received my results, I fell into the domains of Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking, which didn't entirely surprise me; however, it did validate the reliability of the survey.

At the workshop, each person had to place sticky dots in the domain and on the skill that best represented us. Once we were finished, it was interesting to see the domains my team fell under and what that meant in terms of team performance. Based on the results, my boss began to play more to our strengths, and when an assignment involved a task that was not our forte, she would take the additional time to explain how it needed to accomplished. Ultimately, we performed better as a team, and the quality of our work improved dramatically because we which people were necessary to accomplish it.

Admittedly, after finishing the survey, many of the team members didn't bother to read the accounts of some of the most powerful leaders in the United States and how they used the Strengths Based Leadership approach to their advantage. They should have. It was eye opening to see that the only thing these leaders had in common was that they recognized the power of formulating a team based on shared strengths, which included the CEO himself or herself. Often, people assume that a leader exhibits similar personality traits such as extroversion, tough mindedness, dominance, and sociability. However, the leaders they interviewed never fit into a particular category; some were strategic but lacked influence; some were influential but were not strong at building relationships. Once the leaders knew who they were, they were able to formulate a team to compliment them.

What does that mean for us? A lot. Don't buy into the notion that there is only one mold for a leader. Yes, when you are a leader, the buck stops with you. However, this notion that a leader is great in all domains is frankly preposterous. Tom Rath and Barry Conchie clearly remind us that it takes a strong team to make an organization successful.
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on July 6, 2012
I just finished reading the book and have spent 45 minutes trying to find a way to take the online assessment. I've read the access code would be in the email receipt, it was not. I've also read that it is in the back cover of the book, it was not. Great book but the whole concept is incomplete without the ability to do the assessment. To many people on Kindle to not have this function available for digital readers.
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on March 18, 2009
As a corporate human resources director, I enjoyed StrengthsFinder 2.0. This new book is an inspiring read also. It contains a large amount of data and information especially from the Gallup scientists.

For many years, they studied more than 1 million work teams and conducted more than thousands of interviews with leaders and followers to ask exactly why they followed their leader.

Based on the authors' discoveries, the book focuses on three keys to being a great leader:

1. Knowing your strengths.
2. Getting people with the right strengths on your team.
3. Meeting the four basic needs of followers.

Combined with the research are quite a few actionable ideas that you will be able to implement immediately or at least in the near future.

As a criticism I would point out that eliminating or minimizing our weaknesses is just as important. I realize the book may disagree with this viewpoint but since entering management in 1975, I have seen many strong leaders fail because they couldn't or wouldn't control their; ego, sexual impulses, greed, etc., etc.

I hope you find this review helpful.

Michael L. Gooch, SPHR - Author of Cowboy Wisdom for Today's Business Leaders.
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on February 18, 2009
I read this book with great interest. Most leadership books are part of the cult of personality celebrating some charismatic big ego while neglecting the team it took to realize the vision. The emphasis here on followers and teams is commendable. There are heartwarming stories of leadership who brought people together to achieve BIG things--e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr.

But I had to think about the focus on strengths aspect. Strengths are important, but leaders' weaknesses can kill a company, economy, and nation. There has been a lot of ballyhoo about "play to strengths" the last few years, and an equally raucous bantering about how "fixing weaknesses is a waste of time." But what about $18.5 Billion in Wall St. bonuses subsidized by government bailouts; the derailments of Prince at Citi, Fuld at Lehman, and then Thain and O'Neal at Merrill; the 600,000 lost jobs as of January 2009; or 401(k)'s down the drain? The current global financial crisis seems like a line extension of this line of thought.

The relentless strengths, strengths, strengths mantra is like betting the farm on upside potential without considering downside risk. Strengths are compelling, but weaknesses can be lethal. In politics, one need look no further than George W. Bush in the U.S. or Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. In business, Morgan McCall and Mike Lombardo studied how executives run down companies and get fired back in the 1980s. They found that so-called "derailed" managers had plenty of strengths. But these strengths were mitigated by very real and dangerous weaknesses. These weaknesses took two forms: (1) a lack of ability or aptitude and (2) a strength used to the point of excess (e.g., when Gallup StrengthsFinder Command themes become micro-management; when Gallup StrengthsFinder Self-assurance themes become arrogance).

Several modern management researchers have extended the seminal work of McCall and Lombardo to further reveal the perils of accentuating the positive (see resources at [...] and the case seems pretty compelling: a single-minded focus on strengths might not be the silver bullet to fixing our current crisis of leadership in business, government, and politics.

It is curious that none of this other research is cited, refuted, or even acknowledged in any of the Gallup and Buckingham work on strengths. Perhaps they are only self-referential and pay no attention to what other people have learned about leadership. The reference list to Strengths Based Development, for instance, is larded with Gallup internal publications, but precious little that has been peer-reviewed. It starts to look suspicious.

While Strengths Based Development has some interesting ideas and lots of feel-good stories, definitely be sure to see the other side of the argument. A one-sided perspective will get you one-sided results, and that tips the scale down, down, down--kind of like the Dow and S&P right now.
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on June 19, 2011
I'm a university teacher of 17 years. I have received seven full days of Strengths Training from Gallup, the source of the Strengths philosophy and the many books written. I have also designed strengths-based curriculum for a graduate program, have used Strengths-philosophy in the classroom. A big part of my daily work also involves coaching and facilitating student teams. I am also part of a Strengths Advisory Committee meant to integrate Strengths philosophy into an entire graduate school.

I have read this book twice now over a three-month period and have thought deeply about it, and discussed its contents with others.

The book starts by discussing the importance of the Strengths philosophy for personal effectiveness and engagement within organizations. It also describes the four domains in which personal strengths tend to fall - Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building, Influencing and Executing. It then profiles the achievements of four leaders who had strengths primarily within certain domains, and how they achieved great things with their strengths. It also describes how truly effective leaders create achievements that perpetuate themselves after the leader leaves the organization. It then describes the four needs of followers -- Trust, Compassion, Hope and Stability. Over half the book is dedicated to listing each of the Gallup Strengths held by leaders, and making suggestions about how to create Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope using these strengths, and generally how to lead with them, and mitigate any negative side-effects that come from these strengths.

In terms of positives, I think the book adds to our knowledge of leadership. The book does a good job of convincing the reader that Trust, Compassion, Hope and Stability are widely sought-after by people receiving leadership. The large sample size from which Gallup drew the research lends a lot of credibility to a framework that otherwise, might sound like it was invented from the authors' experience or imagination. While Trust, and to some extent, Hope, are not new to existing thought on leadership, Compassion and Stability added new dimensions to my arsenal of leadership thought.

The book also describes the four domains in which most people's strengths reside -- Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building, Influencing, and Executing. I found both the needs of followers and the four domains also created a new framework for understanding the internal dynamics of teams, although team facilitation wasn't covered specifically in the book.
On the weak side, I did find myself struggling to understand how to apply my own strengths to build Compassion, Hope, Trust and Compassion from the authors' suggestions. On this note, the book seems to depart from findings drawn from established research, resorting to mere opinion and suggestion. Often, I found myself struggling to see how their suggestions would actually meet the need they were suggesting -- in spite of the training I've received in individual strengths awareness and application.

However, there were a few suggestions that resonated with me, and that I could take away as actionable items in the future. I concluded that the reader will have to brainstorm their own methods to come away with a complete approach to improving their leadership style. And these methods have to come from within -- consistent with their own, unique brand of strengths.

Also, I shared the idea building Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope with three senior executives, one of which was retired. There was NOT immediate buy-in that these soft values should be the aim of conscious leadership efforts. Comments ranged from "these needs are too airy-fairy" "No, it's all about execution", or a flat statement that these things simply aren't important to many people. There was also a comment that if I shared the leadership framework with people in our organization as part of a Strengths-based change, it would kill the change. There was the comment that "it's all about building shareholder wealth", not about Strengths. So, anyone trying to sell a strengths-based leadership program might find it a hard-sell to senior management without providing some evidence it will have a positive impact on business results.

While not a weakness, I think it's wise to point out something for people sourcing the book without the access code (used, or from the library, for example). This book is for someone who is already familiar with the Strengths philosophy and their personal strengths. For example, the 34 individual Strengths themes weren't described early in the book -- they are simply listed in the last half of the book and under the discussion of domains. Yet understanding the overall philosophy is important for buying into the whole Strengths-based leadership concept. On the other hand, if you buy the book new, with an access code, you can take the Gallup Strengths finder so you can learn about your own personal themes and build awareness.

The book I received was from the library, so someone had already used the code, so I can't comment firsthand on the quality of the online materials you receive after taking the assessment.

However, page 99 of the book says this:

"In the back of the book, you will find a packet with a unique access code that will enable you to take the latest version (2.0) of the Strengths finder. Upon completion of the assessment, you will receive a highly customized Strengths-Based Leadership Guide that lists your top five themes of strength as well as several suggestions for leading with each theme of strength and illustration of each theme in action. (If you have already taken the Strengths finder, you can log on to the website using this new code, follow the instructions to receive the new leadership guide based on your existing results.)...While the guide you will receive online will be more customized to your strengths, the section that follows can be used as a reference for building on the strengths of your team and the people around you."

In conclusion, I think this book adds a number of new insights to the body of thinking about leadership. Online access to the Strengths Finder and the Action Guide alone is worthwhile for the price alone. I think people who value the softer side of management will think very highly of this book, however, the reader may well find it necessary to do some serious introspection to determine how to apply its ideas.
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