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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 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 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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VINE VOICEon January 11, 2009
"While the best leaders are not well-rounded, the best teams are." That's the big idea in the latest book in the "StrengthsFinder" series, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow. This is a keeper--and expertly expands the value of focusing on strengths. Gratefully, it's not a rehash--it adds to the knowledge base.

And wow! Gallup conducted 20,000 in-depth interviews with senior leaders, then another 10,000 interviews with followers. They have the data! Millions, from more than 50 countries, have taken the online StrengthsFinder assessment. The research-based insights and recommendations plow new ground. For example, "the most effective leaders are always investing in strengths." They write, "The odds of an employee being engaged are a dismal 1 in 11 (9%). But when an organization's leadership focuses on the strengths of its employees, the odds soar to almost 3 in 4 (73%).

Leadership is nothing without followers and this new book describes the four basic needs of followers: trust, compassion, stability and hope. "The chances of employees being engaged at work when they do not trust the company's leaders are just 1 in 12."

This is not dry, academic stuff. Four leaders--and their extremely diverse strengths--are profiled, using what they call the four domains of leadership strength: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking. Example: Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, leverages her Executing strengths (Achiever and Responsibility). Her budget, after just 20 years, is $120 million. She knows the Top-5 Strengths of her key people--and how to leverage those strengths.

Other profiles include the CEO of The Ritz-Carlton (Influencing), the chairman of Standard Chartered Bank (Relationship Building), and the CEO of Best Buy (Strategic Thinking). The core idea for all four very different CEOs: it's all about leveraging the strengths of their team members. "While the best leaders are not well-rounded, the best teams are."

The research also delivers five findings on what strong teams have in common, such as "Conflict doesn't destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results." Like the two predecessor books from Gallup (StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Now, Discover Your Strengths), this one also includes a unique access code so you can take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment online. However, the new-and-improved upgrade delivers your strengths back to you (via email) with new insights on the four domains of leadership strength (Executing, etc.). The book also includes a three-page commentary on each strength and how to address your followers' four basic needs using your Top-5 strengths.

I encourage each CEO I coach to know and leverage the Top-5 strengths of their direct reports and their board chairs. Understanding strengths is not an option, I insist. Instead, it's one of the 20 critical core competencies in the Team Bucket, one of the 20 buckets in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets. Mastering The Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Non-profit
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