Everyone has their strengths and limitations, even while we work hard to improve (hopefully) each and every day.

The most effective leaders recognize their strengths and limitations and surround themselves with people who will complement their abilities, preferably by those with different sets of strengths so that they can create a more formidable team with fewer deficiencies in the leadership group as a whole.

Traynor et al examined strengths-based leadership for pharmacists and pharmacy managers/leaders.They described how discovery and application of strengths has become a foundational theme in leadership development activities.

The learning process begins with building awareness and identifying individual talents using a strengths profile and reflecting on previous use of these talents. In an educational session the authors conducted, participants were encouraged to examine how professional experiences that correlate with their talents intersect with and affect their knowledge and skills.

The participants were then encouraged to use and maximize their talents in a team environment. Participants over the years have viewed the program favorably and articulated that the use and growth of strengths is valuable to their career.

The authors described 4 criteria that define a strength. First, a person must have some ability in an activity. This can be witnessed by feelings of self-efficacy and consistent outstanding performance.

Second, a person must have a natural attraction to the activity. They should feel like they cannot avoid the chance to do it over and over again.

Third, while engaged in the activity, the person is inquisitive and immersed. They forget to look at the clock, and concentration is intense.

Finally, once finished with the activity, people long to do it more and anticipate the next moment when they can repeat it.

The strengths index described by the authors identifies the extent to which each person resonates with 34 different strengths characteristics, naming specifically the top 5. These range broadly from organization skills to achievement orientation, communication, learning, connecting people together, and a greater sense of understanding.

Surrounding yourself with people who think just like you do and with proverbial “yes men” to satisfy your own ego will only do that—satisfy your ego—and nothing more. But that ego will come crashing down when your team fails or you fall woefully short of achieving your goals.

Using strengths leadership is but one way to hone your managerial effectiveness, but there are others. It actually is quite inexpensive in time and money to conduct strengths assessment, design teams, and determine how you can leverage one another’s strengths.

In fact, the little bit it costs in time and money will be saved many times over.

Additional information about Leadership can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

1Traynor AP, Janke KK, Sorensen TD. Using personal strengths with intention in pharmacy: Implications for pharmacists, managers, and leaders. Ann Pharmaco. 2010;44:367-376.  

About the Author
Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is professor of Social/Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University California.