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What Is Strengths Focused Leadership?


“By celebrating what’s right with the world, we find the energy to fix what’s wrong.”

So says Dewitt Jones, the award winning National Geographic photographer, and leadership writer alongside his co-author Stephen Covey. His years of capturing the beauty, splendour
and potential of developing nations convinced him that this focus on their strengths could advance their cause much more than berating their deficiencies. But does this outlook hold true for the modern leader and their people?

It’s Not Just About What You’re Good At

Ask yourself, which of the things you’re really good at are the ones that also really inspire and motivate you?

The answer to this question touches on a fundamental part of the definition of a strength. A real strength is more than simply something that you are very good at. It is also something that energises and motivates you.

A focus on strengths is a focus on what people are good at that also energises them, and it’s also a focus on building on people’s strengths rather than a focus on fixing people’s weaknesses.

The Strengths Focused Leader

The leader of the team or business wishing to move towards a strengths focus has a critical role to play. A strengths focused leader is one who adopts and demonstrates the following principles, beliefs or mindset in their behaviour:

  • Everyone has strengths which can be harnessed and built on.
  • People will perform better, and be more motivated and engaged, and make a stronger contribution, if they are enabled to play to their strengths.
  • People perform at their best when expectations are clear and when they are supported and challenged to match the expectations as closely as possible with their strengths.
  • Helping people identify their strengths helps them use them more.
  • Teams can play to their strengths more if they identify one another’s strengths.
  • Recruit to strength (competence plus energy), not competence alone.
  • Celebrating strengths and what is working gives people the energy to address their weaknesses and what is working less well or not working at all.
  • I view my own and others’ weaknesses from a position of strength – looking at how we can use our strengths to address any significant weaknesses

How To Become a Strengths Focused Leader

Mike Roarty and Kathy Toogood have developed the MORE Model, which gives leaders an easy to remember framework for comprehensively incorporating a strengths focus into everything that they do as a leader, in order to get the most out of their people, their potential and their performance.

Supported by a strengths focused mindset, establishing strengths in a team or organisation follows the following 4 steps:

M Identify & develop My own strengths
O Identify and develop the strengths of Others
R Apply a strengths focus to Regular conversations
(1-2-1s, team meetings, coaching etc)
E Apply to Employee processes (Performance & development planning, recruitment etc.)

Fig. 1 The MORE Model

(Roarty and Toogood 2012)
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