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Professional Development Bookshelf:

Reviews of books

that teach us about our craft By Col. Tom Carden, Commander, 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade Georgia Army National Guard


trengths Based Leadership highlights a significant body of research that took more than 50 years for the Gallup scientists to complete. Unlike many leadership works, Rath and Conchie focus less on theory and more on successful leaders as well as followers. The book is very succinct and makes its key points right up front. One of the key arguments offered early in the introduction involves the necessity of investing in the strengths of employees versus simply focusing developmental efforts on weaknesses. The natural tendency to invest in employee development by focusing on weaknesses can lead to employees losing confidence and becoming less productive. Focusing on employee strengths increases employee selfconfidence and long-term productivity. Rath and Conchie also address the need for leaders to do a good self-assessment and of not falling into the trap of trying to be good at everything, as this breeds mediocrity. The book also addresses the pitfall of leaders trying to mimic the leadership styles of other people they admire. The importance of leaders developing self-awareness and playing to their strengths, according to the authors, cannot be overstated. The leader self-awareness research feeds right into the recommendation of building well-rounded teams. Rath and Conchie challenge leaders to leverage their self-awareness in selecting their team members. Team building is an essential task for every leader. The authors encourage leaders to avoid stacking his, or her, team with people who act, think and behave like themselves. This particular error lends itself to group-think and limits growth, adaptability and change.

Part two of the book examines four distinct domains of leadership strengths: executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking. Rath and Conchie defined these strengths, and then tied them to specific examples. They examine Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach America, within the context of the executing theme; Simon Cooper, president of The Ritz Carlton, under the influencing theme; Mervyn Davies, chairman of Standard Chartered Bank, in the area of relationship building; and Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy, under the theme of strategic thinking. These living examples brought leadership theory to life by demonstrating how real leaders applied their strengths by leveraging individuals, team, talent and scarce resources toward solving serious problems. Rath and Conchie take on an essential aspect of leading that many books on leadership overlook, and that is the followers. Regardless of one’s leadership title or position, one is not truly leading unless someone is following. Careful research was completed to have followers identify what they need and expect from their leaders. Four basic needs were identified: trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Trust is identified as the “do or die” foundation for leading. Compassion is defined as demonstrating genuine concern for those you lead, and makes a huge difference in employee satisfaction, productivity and development. Stability is described in terms of providing employees with some sense of security, support, confidence, and predictability. Finally, creating a sense of hope and optimism within a team increases the chances of success. Strengths Based Leadership is well worth the time and energy to read. It is not very long or complicated. The book includes some timeless leader lessons that are helpful to review, whether you are planning to take over your first leadership position, or if you have been leading for many years.

November 2012 | 18


This month’s edition of the “Georgia Guardsman” features a cover story about the Georgia State Defense Force’s annual training at the Georgi...

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