Three Strengths Any Leader Cannot Afford to Be Without Strategic, Activator, and Maximizer
There are three strengths that great leaders always possess. Strategic: the ability to wade through complex options and know where best to go. Activator: the ability to start. Maximizer: the ability to stay focused on one thing and see it grow.
These three traits are part of the thirty-four strengths defined in Tom Rath’s book, StrengthsFinder 2.0, which also includes a code to take an online assessment to find your top five strengths. If you just want to take the test (without buying the book to reference all thirty-four strengths), it is available for $15. This link will give you access to the test and the subsequent analysis of your top five strengths. If you have not taken this assessment before, I encourage you to take it as soon as you can.
Here’s why these particular strengths are vital for any leader who wishes to excel in leadership.
Tom Rath’s test reveals that I have only one of these three strengths in my top five. It is Strategic. So, I have to work on the other two and ensure I am surrounded by people who naturally excel in them. Before we go any further, allow me to share excerpts from the StrengthsFinder book to define these three leadership strengths. As you read through them, consider whether or not they describe you.
Strategic, Activator, Maximizer as Defined by StrengthsFinder 2.0
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 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.
ACTIVATOR: “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 your 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.
MAXIMIZER: Excellence, not average, is your measure. Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and in your opinion is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling. Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you. Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for the telltale signs of strength. A glimpse of untutored excellence, rapid learning, a skill mastered without recourse to steps—all these are clues that a strength may be in play. And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence. You polish the pearl until it shines. This natural sorting of strengths means that others see you as discriminating. You choose to spend time with people who appreciate your particular strengths. Likewise, you are attracted to others who seem to have found and cultivated their own strengths. You tend to avoid those who want to fix you and make you well rounded. You don’t want to spend your life bemoaning what you lack. Rather, you want to capitalize on the gifts with which you are blessed. It’s more fun. It’s more productive. And, counterintuitively, it’s more demanding.
What Happens When We Are Only Strong in One of the Three
Leaders who only excel in the Strategic strength: Like me, these leaders tend to dream and strategize, but they have a problem getting started. They easily identify what action is required, and they often place those steps into a list. However, for some reason, they never seem to get to them. Once they finally begin, they have a problem maximizing and driving that action to superior levels. They tend to stop because now they are thinking of something even bigger and better or because they are not happy with the quality of the current project.
Leaders who only excel in the Activator strength: These leaders are always ready to start—now! They look at those who are still waiting and strategizing in wonder. “Let’s go!” is their motto. However, if these leaders lack strategic tendencies, they tend to initiate the wrong actions, activities that seem good on their own, but on the whole will not to lead to great destinations. Also, Activators share a common Maximizer tendency: they will start, start, start so many things, but then stop, stop, stop most of them.
Leaders who only excel in the Maximizer strength: These leaders cannot seem to fit things together in a way that leads to magnificent results. They struggle to begin. However, once begun, you better get out of their way. They take whatever they have locked their focus on to unprecedented heights.
My friend, I hope you see that regardless of your field, if you want to be a great leader, you must find a way to excel in these three areas. If they are not your natural strengths, you must work to improve in them or surround yourself with people who already excel in these areas. We must be able to think through the options, start, and drive our goals to unimaginable heights.
For Further Reading: