Authors: Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

Publisher: Gallup Press, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1595620255, 216 pages


This useful leadership book supports its advice, guidelines and recommendations with solid research. Gallup Inc., the well-known polling company, has done far more research on leadership and the social sciences than any author could do alone. Here, Gallup executives Tom Rath – already a best-selling author – and Barry Conchie extrapolate significant findings on leadership from their company’s mountain of research. They explain what superior leadership requires and what a leader’s followers seek. Their book comes with unique access codes to leadership strength assessment. In a world of mixed opinion and amorphous authority, getAbstract recommends this empirical approach to understanding leadership by way of reliable data.

Accentuate your strengths

Gallup knows about leadership. Its staffers have conducted more than 20,000 interviews with key leaders. In 50 years of polling people about their leaders, Gallup studied more than one million workplace teams. Its researchers asked 10,000 followers about the leadership characteristics that matter most to them. Based on its research, interviews and studies, Gallup lists the three most significant factors in exercising strong leadership:

1. “The most effective leaders are always investing in strengths.” Managers must concentrate on their own strengths and on those of their employees. Some 73 percent of employees say they are more engaged when their firms focus on their personal abilities. Only 9 percent of staffers feel engaged when companies fail to make this effort.

2. “The most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and then maximize their team.” Well-rounded individuals do not make the best leaders. This may sound like abject heresy, but Gallup research shows that well-rounded individuals turn out to be mediocre leaders. However, the best work teams always are well-rounded.

3. “The most effective leaders understand their followers’ needs.” These leaders work extremely hard to fulfill their employees’ requirements.

Knowing your strengths

As a leader, you must know your strengths and capabilities so you can work to get the most from them, and to expand and enhance them. Leaders who are self-aware can leverage their primary assets. But many leaders lack self-awareness. Often, managers are completely in the dark about their own personalities, or their leadership assets and liabilities. Gallup researchers routinely encounter leaders who don’t know where they are strong or weak. For instance, many leaders tell researchers that they are particularly good at developing their employees, but Gallup’s interviews with those employees sometimes show the exact opposite: The leaders in question more often demoralize, rather than develop, their followers.

Prominent leadership researcher Dr. Donald O. Clifton was the “father of strengths psychology.” Starting in the 1960s, he and his Gallup and academic colleagues initiated more than 20,000 90-minute interviews with business and government leaders, including some former heads of state. Clifton’s researchers used performance data to determine how successful the interviewed business leaders were and how they carried out their work. The most startling finding was that these leaders did not share any particular strength…

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