Here is a killer quotation on Fox’s definition of true teaching talent:
“True teaching talent reveals itself when the teacher struggles to engage student in the process, not giving up until he finds a way to bring about understanding and competence in the student.”
Strengths Based Leadership is an upgrade to the Strengthsfinders library. It is not merely a repackaging of old ideas. Rath and Conchie have maximized previous strong features and added key new insights. As with all Strengthfinders books, there is a code included that allows the reader to take the Strenghfinders 2.0 Assessment. This assessment will provide you with your top five strengths. If you are new to Strengthsfinders, Donald Clifton’s research into Positive psychology is the basis for Strengthsfinders. It focuses on telling a person what his or her strengths are rather than revealing weaknesses or areas to shore up. Clifton and his associates spent decades studying top performers in a variety of fields looking for common denominators. To their surprise there was no common denominator. Successful people are able to deploy different strengths to get the job done. Over time Gallup (founded by Clifton) was able to narrow down the research to 34 innate strengths/talents. The Strengthfinders 2.0 will help you to understand your top 5.
The essential premise of Strengths Based thinking is that individuals who want to maximize their potential are better served by growing/developing their strengths than by working to improve weaknesses. The “well rounded” person is a myth. Rath/Conchie put it this way, “If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything. While our society encourages us to be well rounded, this approach inadvertently breeds mediocrity. Perhaps the greatest misconception of all is that of the well rounded leader” (p. 7).
In Strengths Based Leadership, Rath and Conchie argue against striving to become a well rounded leader.
Here are their three main insights:
1) The most effective leaders focus on growing their own strengths.
The best leaders understand their own strengths, are comfortable with them, and seek to strengthen and deploy them whenever possible. Strengths Based Leadership divides the Strengths categories into four domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. Most leaders will be strong in one primary area. For example, my top two strengths and 3 of top four (Learner, Intellection, Input) are Strategic Thinking strengths. Instead of working to grow in another area, the best leaders work to maximize and lead out of their top areas. This leads to insight two.
2) The most effective leaders surround themselves with other leaders who bring different strengths to the table.
This is the key insight in the book. The trouble in leading is that leaders have a tendency to attract people with similar strengths to themselves. If a leadership team has strength in only one of the four domains, it will be ineffective. The best leaders build intentionally a team whose individual strengths cover as many of the four domains as possible. Teams cannot merely be built on friendships or haphazardly. Leaders must gather a diverse team. Notice the difference between 1 and 2. As individuals, we must work on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. But as teams, we must work to build groups that are well rounded.
Rath/Conchie include four case studies to illustrate how #1 and #2 work together. They offer profiles of the leadership styles of four leaders (Wendy Kopp - founder and CEO of Teach for America, Brad Anderson - CEO of Best Buy, Mervyn Davies - Chairman Standard Chartered Bank, Simon Cooper - president of The Ritz-Carlton) who lead out of the four different leadership quadrants. They also reflect on how the teams around them function to maximize the results of each organization.
3) The most effective leaders understand the needs of those who would follow them.
The latest Gallup research focuses on the question of why people follow. They have summarized the data into four basic needs of followers:
Trust: a relationship of trust between leaders and followers is the foundation for leadership. Words like honesty, integrity, and respect also showed up. When an atmosphere of trust exists, there are demonstrable increases in speed and efficiency at work.
Compassion: followers need to sense that leaders have a people-centered bias. It is crucial for leaders to focus on projecting a positive, people-focused vibe in the workplace.
Stability: followers need a sense of stability, particularly during difficult times. The best leaders are ones that can be depended upon during shaky economic times. Gallup has found that “employees who have high confidence in their company’s financial future are nine times as likely to be engaged in their jobs when compared with those who have lower confidence about their organization’s financial future” (p. 87). Transparency is a key trait for leaders who desire to build stability.
Hope: followers need leadership than does more than merely react to circumstances. The best leaders are able to instill hope in an organization by taking actions/casting vision about the future. Leaders must initiate new ventures to shape the future rather than only reacting to the problems of the present. By acting for the future, hope is instilled. Rath/Conchie put it this way: “If as a leader, you are not creating hope and helping people see the way forward, chances are, no one else is either” (91).
Pages 97-236 contain a description of each of the 34 themes. This section is the most helpful yet in the Strengthsfinder library. It discusses how to deploy each strength around the four fold grid of trust, compassion, stability, and hope. It also gives insights for leading others who have the theme.
Strengths-Based Leadership is a good one. I recommend it. There are many implications here for leading missional communities. The New Testament understands the body of Christ in terms of a diversity of gifted individuals deploying their individual strengths for the upbuilding of the whole (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14). What do you think?
When was the last time that you were passionate about the life that God is calling you to live?
Last Spring, I acted on a longstanding desire to learn to surf. I had been body surfing and body boarding for most of the last twenty years. But I was always keenly interested in riding the waves standing up. I am nearing 40 years of age now so I figured it was now or never.
I purchased two boards: one for my daughters and one for my wife and me. We took the boards to the beach in the north Cocoa Beach area of Florida and began the process of learning to surf.
It was not easy. At least, it wasn’t easy for me. My daughters were able to stand up immediately and begin to ride waves. I think that I fell 40 times before finally getting my feet under me and experiencing the raw, sublime power of the ocean propelling me toward the shore.
It was a life-changing moment. I knew instantly why grown women and men leave jobs at the drop of hat when the word gets out that good waves are present. I understood why otherwise responsible adults head for the coastline as storms approach in search of a big wave. There is nothing quite like surfing. I love to talk to friends about my experiences.
But a peculiar twist occurs in most of my conversations with others about surfing. No matter how I describe the pleasures and sheer joy of surfing. No matter how well I share the sense of oneness with creation or the powerful rush of the primordial waters. People tend to have a different question on their minds: BRIAN, AREN’T YOU AFRAID OF SHARKS?
Isn’t this an interesting shift? But its all too human. Fear prevents most of us from experiencing the life that God dreamed for us when we were created. Even Christ followers gravitate to the path of least resistance. How do we break out of the stifling grip of fear? It takes a reality altering moment of transformation. Catching my first wave changed me. Of course I have no desire to be chewed up by a hungry shark, but when I’m in the ocean, I am not worrying about sharks (and I’ve never seen one). When I am surfing, I am in the ocean to catch waves. Period.
Jesus’ death on the cross and God the Father’s action of raising the Son from the dead on the third day is the ultimate game changer in Creation. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death for sin, suffering and injustice and his resurrection for the sake of God’s ultimate victory, we can now make sense of the past because the future of Creation is guaranteed. Thus, we can now live purposively and courageously for God’s mission in the present.
Jesus’ call becomes a call to live free as the people whom we were created to be. We can live unfettered by the fears that rob the masses from true life. We live as dead men and women walking.
When we (re)align our lives in light of God’s game changing actions in the life, death, and resurrection, our lives become paradoxical. We learn to relish risk. We begin to fill more alive because we are dead to the world. We understand profoundly that our future is utterly secure because of what Jesus has already accomplished. This unleashes us to be free in the present. We live purposefully and courageously in the present.
We learn the truth of sayings such as:
“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” Andre Gide
“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” William Shedd
I’ve begun to understand what this life looks like by learning to surf:
1) The only way to surf is to leave the safety of the shoreline.
2) To get to the waves you have to paddle through the breakers.
3) After a wipeout, you simply paddle back out and catch another wave.
4) Stormy weather can bring the best waves.
5) Every wave is different, but even the perfect one does not last forever.
6) Surfers are passionate about surfing — they live to surf.
When was the last time that you were truly passionate about the life that God is calling you to live.
(Re)Aligning for the Future of God’s Dreams
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C. S. Dream
The future looks different when we are (re)aligned with God missional dreams.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw, writer
God is looking for women and men who are unreasonable in the sense that we are captured and committed to God’s dreams—we are unwilling to settle for the stifling of the status quo whenever we are called anew and afresh by Jesus into the world on mission.
What are you afraid of? What is keeping you from pursuing the missional dreams of God for your life? What would it mean for you today to take the initial step?
My wife and I desire for our daughters to grow fully into the women whom God created them to be. As part of their education, I am teaching and modeling (hopefully) leadership for them.
I agree with John Maxwell that “leadership is influence.” I understand influence to be the effect of our words, actions, attitude, and demeanor on other people and situations. During walks and meals with my girls, we regularly reflect on what godly influence looks like.
Here are some of the principles and maxims that we are working on:
1) Good manners are the lubricant of a civil society. The power of “please” “excuse me” and “thank you.”
2) Courage is the key that opens the door to the future of God’s dreams.
3) Success is more related to a journey and effort than a destination.
Wooden “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” And “Never try to be better than anyone else, but never stop trying to be the best you can be.”
4) Fail Forward. Failure is a means to ultimate success rather than the end of one’s dreams.
5) Character counts.
“Character is destiny.” Heraclitus
6) Cultivate, maintain, and project a positive attitude.
“Positive thinking won’t let you do anything, but it will let you do everything better than a negative attitude.” Zig Ziglar.
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” Marcus Aurelius
“The most important lesson I have ever learned is the stupendous importance of what we think. If I knew what you think, I would know what you are, for your thoughts make you what you are. By changing our thoughts, we can change our lives.” And “Am I advocating a Pollyanna attitude toward all our problems? No. Unfortunately life isn’t that simple. But I am advocating—in the strongest of terms—that we assume a positive attitude instead of a negative attitude.” Dale Carnegie
7) Humility. Think of others before you think of yourself.
8 ) Add value to all people and all situations. Be known as a giver rather than as a taker. Build up; don’t tear down. Replenish; don’t deplete. Don’t criticize or take away unless you have a better solution that you are willing to invest the time and energy to make happen.
9) Gratitude. Live life as if it were a gift. Learn to say, “Thank you.”
10) Own Up to Your Mistakes. Don’t make excuses. Learn to apologize honestly and alter your life to avoid the mistake in the future.
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!