Strengths-Based Leadership Theory

What Is Strengths-Based Leadership Theory?

Strengths-Based Leadership Theory (also known as Strengths-Based Organizational Management or SBOM) is a method of maximizing the efficiency, productivity, and success of an organization by focusing on and continuously developing the strengths of organizational resources, such as computer systems, tools, and people. At the core of the strengths-based leadership is the underlying belief that people have several times more potential for growth building on their strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses. A strength is defined as the ability to exhibit near-perfect performance consistently in a given activity. Strengths-based organizations don’t ignore weaknesses, but rather, focuses on building talents and minimizing the negative effects of weaknesses. Strengths-based leaders are always investing in their strengths and the strengths of individuals on their team. Rath and Conchie put forth three tenants of Strengths-based leadership: (1) Effective leaders invest in their followers’ strengths, (2) Effective leaders build well-rounded teams out of followers who are not, and (3) Effective leaders understand the needs of followers.

Strengths-based leadership theory is supported by over 30 years of research from the Gallup Organization and others. In addition, its core beliefs overlap a variety of other developing theories in personal and organizational psychology including positive psychology and appreciative inquiry. However, many have criticized the fundamental assessment tool of the Gallup Organization, StrengthsFinder 2.0, as unreliable. Recent research has found that when leading teams, strengths-based leadership causes individual team member efficacy to increase, but collective team efficacy to decrease, suggesting that it is not an optimal method for leading teams where cohesion is necessary.


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About the author

David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.

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