One of my favorite personality tests is the Clifton Strengths Finder. The test identifies your top five strengths and then categorizes each of them into one of four quadrants of leadership style. My top five are ideation, strategic, intellection, learner, and input. All five of them, rather uniquely, fit into the strategic thinking category of leadership. No wonder I enjoyed that Think Tank so much! Ideas and learning are like candy for me. Intellectual discussions are better than Disneyland.
An important clarification with the word “strengths” in Strengths Finder is that there are other skills lower down on your list that you might be good at. The key difference is in how much energy they demand of you. In other words, your top 5 strengths give you energy or at least consume very little.
And I can completely relate. Learning, reading, ideas, strategy…this is what I do for fun. I do it without effort. Brainstorming gives me energy. Curiosity is as basic a need as hunger for me. The time I spend thinking through sermon ideas isn’t confined to office hours. It is what I do during my free time.
But recently I paid to get the whole list…all 34 strengths in order. It might as well be renamed Weakness Finder. Because the extended list shows you the entire spectrum, including those areas where you come up short. My bottom 5, in order, are context, harmony, restorative, consistency, and discipline. That is hard enough to type out, let alone to spend emotional energy considering.
Because I like to think of myself as having it all together (stop laughing). I like to think that those areas I struggle with are just temporary, or that my other strengths greatly outweigh them. Give me enough time and I’ll learn how to do them all. Which is, of course, ridiculous.
Consistency and discipline are my bottom two. I hate that! I’ve been given all this fuel for ideas but lack the strength and energy to finish the job. How will I ever get anything done? If I could pick and choose from the list, I would have come up with a much more well-rounded list.
But this isn’t an option and the list cannot be changed. Strengths Finder swears that your list won’t ever shift. They are hard wired. This is who you are.
And this awareness is actually one of the keys to leadership. Self-differentiation. Self-awareness. Knowing who you are, and just as importantly, who you are not. Good leadership stops wearing masks and pretending to be someone they aren’t. And good leadership isn’t threatened by those with strengths I might be a bit jealous of. It requires complete authenticity, and the courage to delegate to your weaknesses.
Which hits really close to home. I’m currently in the midst of doing rewrites on my manuscript, and I’m realizing, if it weren’t for Patty, I’d be in deep trouble. I’m having to lean on her for the consistency and discipline needed to finish this project. And it is truly humbling.
But it is also turning out to be a gift. Because asking for help is just another way of being vulnerable, and therefore creates intimacy. And it is how we are meant to function. Interdependence is the design. We are not meant to function in complete isolation. We need each other.
As she pours over my writing and makes suggestions and critiques, I feel my courage return…not just to finish the task, but to write with my true voice. To be willing to be seen, not only for my strengths, but for my weaknesses. Because that is where the power is at. And we can’t do it alone.