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Gallup Business Journal: businessjournal.gallup.com
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
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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