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How to Be a Strengths-Based Leader

Helping others be at their best on a day to day basis requires self-aware leadership, which bridges strategy, tactful communication and encouragement.

The leader that blends these skills together is one that takes a strengths-based approach.

Optimal functioning and performance comes from using strengths. This is how people can maintain motivation, stay fully engaged, and reach greater productivity.

The strengths-based leader is also authentic. They have awareness of their personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of their team, and they possess the capability to communicate these effectively.

Here are 6 qualities and tips for becoming a strengths-based leader.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

First and foremost, know yourself and what you do best. Be aware of your assets and liabilities by completing the VIA strengths assessment.

Consider these questions as well: Where can you add the most value, and where you do struggle? What thinking, behavior, and activities are energizing and natural to you? What areas do you tend to avoid and feel drained by?

Know the strengths and weaknesses of others

A strength-based leader is also aware of the strengths and weaknesses of others around them. They are able to recognize these in order to help their team function most effectively.

Pay attention to the activities that other people look forward to and show excitement about. Notice those tasks that people tend to lose motivation and focus on. When people consistently need to be managed they may be stuck in a role using weaknesses instead of strengths.

Build strong teams based on strengths

Once you’re aware of the different assets that compile your team, it’s time to begin aligning roles, responsibilities, and tasks based on these strengths. Find the most acceptable person for each role you need to fill.

Allowing people to use their strengths offers them a sense of meaning and purpose, and assists them in delivering the most productive results by being naturally energized and engaged.

Give and receive positive feedback

Positive feedback doesn’t usually happen as naturally as focusing on areas of improvement. We may think that people don’t need to hear they are doing well, or that they will slack off once they know things are in a good place.

However, positive feedback actually improves performance. It allows for a greater ratio of positive to negative emotions, giving a boost in morale, confidence, and creativity. Focus on peoples’ strengths and give them praise when using these well.

Reveal weaknesses

A strengths-based leader also wants to address weaknesses along with encouraging strengths. Strengths cannot overcome rampant weaknesses so they still must be addressed and managed. Strengths put the wind in the sails, and managing weaknesses prevents the ship from sinking.

It’s not about pointing out peoples’ flaws, but about trying to make weaknesses irrelevant by acknowledging them and exploring them with people.

Celebrate success and rectify failure

A strengths-based leader sets the stage for the culture and climate of an organization. Recognize the strengths apparent in others and help them to notice these personal assets as well. Find unique ways people can apply their strengths and offer praise and celebrate success when it occurs.

When you notice mistakes and obstacles, address these issues in a productive manner by exploring what can be learned and how to approach the situation more productively and effectively in the future.

Use these ideas as a leader, to keep building up the strengths in others, and to help people fulfill their potential and realize their talents.


Linley, P. A., Govindji, R., & West, M. A. (2007). Positive Psychology Approaches to Public Services Leadership: An Introduction to Strengths-based Leadership. The International Journal of Leadership in Public Service, 3 (4), 44-56.

How to Be a Strengths-Based Leader

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2012). How to Be a Strengths-Based Leader. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Feb 2012
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