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A Strengths-Based Approach to Leadership

By Ozlem Aydin

In one of my MBA lectures recently, we discussed the concept of a strengths-based approach to leadership and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it – in a good way. If we pause for a moment and think about it, we don’t often consider our strengths and how to enhance them; rather, our initial thoughts usually go to our shortcomings and the areas that we’d like to perform better in. When watching the news and politics or participating in work meetings, the highlights usually focus on what is not going well, and the discussions are around how to improve those areas.

How about we shift that perspective and instead of focusing on our deficits, we change the narrative to focus on our strengths? That’s exactly what a strengths-based approach does – changing the discussion from a negative to a positive.

So, what exactly is a strengths-based approach and how can we implement and utilize it in leadership? A strengths-based approach to leadership is the ability to identify and maximize the collective strengths of an entire team. The concept originated in the early to mid-1980s from the University of Kansas.

A strengths-based approach focuses on positive attributes, with each employee contributing their individual strengths and collaboratively weaving them into the collective whole to successfully achieve desired results. Our strengths are what we’re naturally good at; it’s what makes us unique. The more we utilize them, the more productive and happier we are because we’re in our natural element.

The benefits of a strengths-based approach

There’s multitude of benefits from implementing a strengths-based approach in the workplace. Some examples include:

  • When leaders encourage employees to identify and apply their strengths, the employee and the organization can benefit from capitalizing on employees’ uniqueness.
  • It enables employees to recognize their capabilities within themselves and makes them more accountable as they take ownership of their contributions.
  • It builds a stronger sense of team as it creates interdependency.
  • It helps us appreciate others’ skills and feel confident that our team members can fill in where we are lacking.
  • It helps organizations save time when employees are aligned with their strengths.
  • We’re more productive when we’re utilizing skills that we’re proficient in.
  • It also makes us happier, resulting in less turnover and employee retention.
  • When employees are more engaged and feel their contributions are recognized, they’re also more likely to feel a sense of community and ownership within their organizations. They will feel more empowered to step up and contribute to shared leadership, ultimately impacting the hierarchies that prevent organizations from maximizing the full potential of their talent.

Magnifying our strengths helps to create more leaderful organizations that bring out the best in everyone. I encourage each of you to identify your strengths and familiarize yourselves with them. What makes you thrive? What triggers activate your strengths?

The more we recognize our strengths, the more we can appreciate one another’s strengths and create a community where we can rely on each other. Great companies succeed because of their talent – the comprehensive experiences of a dynamic team utilizing their unique attributes to identify solutions and overcome challenges for the greater good of the whole.

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected]And to read more from our summer/fall 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort and a link to their stories.

Ozlem is a senior management official currently working for the Director of the Office of Communications at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). She’s been employed at the IRS for 16 years, possessing a wide range of experience from the Collections, Engagement & Retention Office and the Strategy and Organizational Improvement Office to name a few.

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