by Marcus Buckingham


Let me just say it outright. Don’t buy this book.

It’s one of the dullest, most uninspirational leadership books you’ll come across. Truly. I ran out of toothpicks propping my eyes open with them.

However, with that said… the StrengthsFinder Leadership Assessment tool is an intriguing tool. After taking it and sharing the results with my wife, she kept saying, “Yes, Yes, Yes!” in response to at least three of my results.

The overall premise of the book and Strengths-Based Leadership is simply that… lead from your strengths. The tool helps you discover your strengths and learn to adapt those and develop those to whatever job or profession you’re currently in.

The authors have done extensive research spanning years to develop this tool, and their observations and conclusions seem to ring true to general human experience: If you try to focus on shoring up your weaknesses, you will always only be an average performer. The real key to excellence is finding and developing and operating out of our your real, innate strengths.

These conclusions are extremely encouraging and challenging. For one, few people are ever able to work in a true strength-based organization. The book offers suggestions for leading your existing company or group toward that goal, but so much rides on the identification and development of exceptional managers that I wonder how many organizations – even when knowing these principles – will ever be able to change without outside consultation and professional direction.

Therein lies the weakness in the approach. The authors’ conclusions might be revolutionary; however, the implementation of the principles are simply nigh unto impossible. You would need the perfect storm of managerial talent, organizational leadership, executive humility, and employee teachability to pull off such a massive ethos transition.

And let’s not forget that in the middle of wanting to change the way your organization treats its people and uses them, it still has to focus on its prime objectives. Strength-Based Leadership would definitely increase and radically transform the organization from morale to productivity. However, getting there is going to be exceptionally challenging.

Especially if all the material is as dull as this book was.

Like I said, the tool is great; the supporting material is zzzzzzz. I would suggest that you go straight to the StrengthsFinder website to take the inventory there, but it appears that they’ve cleverly required you to buy one of their exceptionally dull books to take the inventory. Good luck with that.

For what it’s worth, here are my Strengths, as identified by the test:

  • Activator
  • Strategic
  • Intellection
  • Belief
  • Achiever

To sum these up:

“When can we start?” This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that “there are still some things we don’t know,” but this doesn’t seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight to stoplight. You are not going to sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green. Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. In fact, guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.Strategic
The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles. Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path—your strategy. Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.

You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound. This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives. Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life.

If you possess a strong Belief theme, you have certain core values that are enduring. These values vary from one person to another, but ordinarily your Belief theme causes you to be family-oriented, altruistic, even spiritual, and to value responsibility and high ethics—both in yourself and others. These core values affect your behavior in many ways. They give your life meaning and satisfaction; in your view, success is more than money and prestige. They provide you with direction, guiding you through the temptations and distractions of life toward a consistent set of priorities. This consistency is the foundation for all your relationships. Your friends call you dependable. “I know where you stand,” they say. Your Belief makes you easy to trust. It also demands that you find work that meshes with your values. Your work must be meaningful; it must matter to you. And guided by your Belief theme it will matter only if it gives you a chance to live out your values.

Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an Achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

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