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Gallup Business Journal:

What Makes a Great Leadership Team?

Individuals don’t have to be well-rounded, but teams should be

by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

Adapted from Strengths Based Leadership


Over the years, Gallup has studied thousands of executive teams. In most cases, our leadership consultants

conduct an in-depth interview with a team’s formal leader (usually the CEO) and also conduct interviews

with each member of the leadership team. This enables us to compare the strengths of each person sitting

around the table so that we can start thinking about each one’s individual development and succession

planning — and perhaps most importantly, how the team looks as a whole.

As we worked with these leadership teams, we began to see that while each

member had his or her own unique strengths, the most cohesive and successful

teams possessed broader groupings of strengths. So we went back and initiated

our most thorough review of this research to date. From this dataset, four distinct

domains of leadership strength emerged: Executing, Influencing, Relationship

Building, and Strategic Thinking.

While these categories appear to be general, especially when compared to the

specific talent themes within the StrengthsFinder assessment, it struck us that

these broader categories of strengths could be useful for thinking about how

leaders can contribute to a team. A more detailed language may work best for

individual development, but these broad domains offer a more practical lens for looking at the composition

of a team.

We found that it serves a team well to have a representation of strengths in each of these four domains.

Instead of one dominant leader who tries to do everything or individuals who all have similar strengths,

contributions from all four domains lead to a strong and cohesive team. Although individuals need not be

well-rounded, teams should be.

This doesn’t mean that each person on a team must have strengths exclusively in a single category. In most

cases, each team member will possess some strength in multiple domains. A tool like Gallup’s

StrengthsFinder assessment can be useful in determining how all team members can maximize their

contribution to the group’s collective goals.

According to our latest research, the 34 StrengthsFinder themes naturally cluster into these four domains of

What Makes a Great Leadership Team?…

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leadership strength based on a statistical factor analysis and a clinical evaluation by Gallup’s top scientists.

As you think about how you can contribute to a team and who you need to surround yourself with, this may

be a good starting point. (See graphic “The Four Domains of Leadership Strength” to see how the 34

StrengthsFinder themes sort into the four domains of leadership strength.)

Explaining the Four Domains

Leaders with dominant strength in the Executing domain know how to make things happen. When you

need someone to implement a solution, these are the people who will work tirelessly to get it done. Leaders

with a strength to execute have the ability to “catch” an idea and make it a reality.

For example, one leader may excel at establishing a

quality process using themes such as Deliberative or

Discipline, while the next leader will use her Achiever

theme to work tirelessly toward a goal. Or a leader with

strong Arranger may determine the optimal configuration

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