Think of a time or circumstance when you were performing at the peak of your abilities. Now, step back and try to explain why you were so effective in that situation. What was it about you or the way you presented yourself that made you feel good? What did you do that worked so well? Why did others respond to you the way they did? The answers to each of these questions are related to your strengths —the central theme of this chapter.

Every one of us has identifiable leadership strengths, areas in which we excel or thrive. But we often fail to recognize these strengths. As a result, many times our strengths are used ineffectively or not at all. The same is true for the strengths of our coworkers and followers; sometimes their strengths are known, but often they go untapped. The challenge we face as leaders is to identify our own strengths as well as the strengths of others and then use these to make our organizations and followers more efficient, productive, and satisfied.

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Identifying individual strengths is a unique challenge because people often feel hesitant and inhibited about acknowledging positive aspects of themselves. In the American culture, expressing positive self- attributes is often seen as boastful or self-serving. In fact, focusing on self is disdained in many cultures, while showing humility and being self-deprecating is seen as virtuous. In this chapter, you will be asked to set aside your inhibitions about identifying your own strengths in an effort to better understand the inextricable role these strengths play in leading and working with others.

Our goal in this chapter is to explore how understanding strengths can make one a better leader. First, we will explain the concept by defining strengths and describing the historical background of strengths- based leadership. We will examine how to identify strengths, followed by a description of different measures that can be used to assess your strengths. The final section of the chapter will look at the concept of strengths-based leadership in practice, including specific strategies that leaders can employ to use strengths to become more effective leaders.


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