4 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Your Strengths

  • 17 February 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Caulk on handsStrengths-based leadership is a trendy topic today. Is focusing on our strengths, those skills that are already well-developed, really a good approach? Even though there are some potential dangers associated with strengths-based leadership, I believe that there are four reasons why we should include this approach in our leadership.

Reason #1 – You Will be More Engaged in Your Work

Think about one of your weaknesses that you bring into the workplace. How does it feel when you use that weakness repeatedly to accomplish something? Now, think about one of your work-related strengths? How does it feel when you get to use that strength in your work?

Most people tend to feel discouraged, inadequate, and unmotivated when they serve in areas of weakness. However, the opposite is usually true when we get to use our strengths. We feel empowered, excited, and fulfilled.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, “People who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general." [1]

The Gallup research clearly indicates that we will be more excited about our work when we get to use our strengths. The staff and volunteers on our teams will be more motivated to serve when we help them use their strengths in meaningful ways. In fact, Rath and Conchie discovered that when organizational leaders focus on peoples’ strengths, there is a 73% chance that they will be engaged in their work (compared to 9% when leaders do not focus on others’ strengths). [2]

When we are engaged in our ministry, we are much more willing to make significant investments in that ministry. Our enthusiasm level is higher, which spreads to others. We’re more likely to persevere with a project and stick with a ministry long-term.

Andy Stanley has said, “Don’t strive to be a well-rounded leader. Instead, discover your zone and stay there. Then delegate everything else." [3] 

In other words, focus on your strengths.

Reason #2 – God Wants Us to Wisely Invest What He Gives Us

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 teaches us to be wise stewards of what God entrusts to us. I believe this includes our strengths and abilities. God has gifted us for a purpose and it makes sense for us to use what He’s given us to accomplish His plans for our lives and the teams on which we serve.

Of course, we also know that God uses us in our weakness. In fact, His strength is made evident in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). God, in His wisdom, will sometimes call us to serve in an area where we are humanly weak. Yet, even as we use our strengths for God, we must do so in humility and in utter dependence on Him. We are always weak compared to Him and the power that He wants to pour in and through our lives.

Reason #3 – Our Strengths May Indicate Where God Wants Us to Serve

If we believe that God gifts us for specific purposes, then it follows that those talents and abilities may indicate where God wants us to serve (at least, in a general way). I still remember my second grade teacher asking me to teach the rest of the class how to tell time. I learned that day and through subsequent speaking opportunities that I had some skill in public communication. Knowing I had this ability helped me discern God’s calling into pastoral ministry and later on into a teaching and training ministry (for more information on calling, read “How to Discern Your God-Given Call”).

Reason #4 – It’s Often the Best Use of Our Time and Energy

Some, like Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, suggest that we can become world-class in any field with enough practice (in contrast, read this summary of a Princeton study that challenges this idea). Even if obsessive practice leads to expertise, why would we want to invest 10,000+ hours to turn a weakness into a strength when we could use that same time to actually use our existing strengths to serve others (and to develop those strengths even more in the process)? 

Think about staff evaluations. We often note both strengths and weakness, but then we will ask staff members to devote significant amounts of time and energy to build up the weaker areas of their ministry. Of course, leaders often need a certain amount of skill in many different areas. Yet, there is a difference between asking someone to shore up a weakness and requesting (or requiring) them to turn a weakness into a strength. In my view, it’s much more productive for the person and the larger ministry if they shore up weaker areas to an acceptable level (and/or add members to the team who are stronger in those areas) while continuing to spend most of their time exercising strengths.

I recognize that sometimes we need to build up areas of weakness in our lives to accomplish God’s purposes. It is also possible that leaders, especially younger leaders, may have undeveloped strengths that would grow exponentially with some practice. I also realize that we may be in a work situation where we do not have the luxury of using our strengths consistently. However, it is still important that we look for opportunities to utilize the talents God has given us.

John Maxwell encourages leaders to spend 80% of their time working on their strengths. In his words, “Growing in a weak area might bring you up to average in that area. But growth in a strength area has the potential to make you exceptional!" [4]  

Randy Wollf is the Director of MinistryLift and Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership Studies at MB Seminary.  

[1] Tom Rath, Strengths Finder 2.0. New York: Gallup Press, 2007, p. iii.  

[2] Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, New York: Gallup Press, 2008, p. 14.  

[3] Andy Stanley, Next Generation Leader. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2003, p. 14.  

[4] John Maxwell, Insights on Improvement for the New Year blog. http://www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/insights-on-improvement-for-the-new-year, 2014.