Christy as a Leader: My Strengths

Gallup StrengthsFinder

1. Connectedness
2. Discipline
3. Harmony
4. Consistency
5. Learner

VIA Characteristics

1. Kindness
2. Judgment
3. Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence
4. Gratitude
5. Honesty

Keirsey: Guardian
Meyer’s Briggs: INTJ (Rational – Mastermind)

Strengths Finder Assessment
When I first read the results of my Strengths Finders test, I smiled and nodded in agreement. As I’ve gotten to know what each of them means, that smile has just gotten wider.

First and foremost, I’m a people person. But I’m relational in a very logical sort of way. Growing up, I often identified with Spock from Star Trek: pure logic mixed with human emotion. My executive strengths of consistency and discipline as well as my strategic strength, learner, represent the logical side of me while my relational strength of harmony shows the human emotional side. I view connectedness as sort of in-between logic and emotion. I feel the connection between things intuitively, but I use that strength to logically plot out a road map for the most efficient plan of action.

Connectedness
My top strength is relational, but not just with people. I relate things and ideas to each other as well. Gallup says I am aware of boundaries and borders, but that I treat them as seamless and fluid, using connectedness to “break down silos that prevent shared knowledge.” I acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers, so I appreciate when people who do know things share their knowledge. We are not all created the same and we ought to build on each other’s strengths and education.

An example in my life when such an open environment existed was during my internship this past summer. There were no cubicles in our office; people shared long desks in one large room. The only closed doors were during meetings. To me, it was a big living room full of smart people working together towards the company’s goals. As an accountant, I loved being able to discuss finances and computer science with the engineers and data scientists. We helped give each other purpose to our own jobs. I could see the work that I billed a client for and they could see the revenue that their work brought in. The high level of communication at that company kept everyone on the same page and motivated them to excel.

Discipline
This strength explains how much I appreciate routines and structure in daily life. Although I’m not so strong on the execution of said routines, I plan them voraciously and create lists upon lists to structure my days and life overall. In fact, I have a lifetime plan for my career and family life. I acknowledge that it may not happen according to a specific plan, but I’ve anticipated several scenarios and how I’d ideally shape my career within each window of opportunity I see.

While I appreciate efficiency and precision, I must realize that others do not share these same values. I have one professor in particular this semester that decidedly abhors making plans. The great part is, he acknowledges our difference and gives me a sympathetic nod every time he changes the syllabus, much to my planning chagrin.

Harmony
Reading the description of this strength, I was surprised it wasn’t my first strength! I underlined nearly everything in the description as pertaining to me. I appreciate validating feedback and listening to others before speaking, I seek out experts in an effort to learn from them rather than to challenge them, and I can confidently say that I don’t have any broken relationships because I don’t like leaving anyone on bad terms. If a friend and I decide we no longer want to hang out for whatever reason, then we make sure to patch any differences before parting ways as friends.

Gallup offered some great ‘Ideas for Action’ for those with Harmony as a strength. Some I’ve already implemented on my own, such as building a network of individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives to help me learn and make well-considered decisions, while others were new ideas that I’m excited to explore.

Consistency
At first glance, this strength seems to contradict with discipline and harmony. It says that I concentrate too much on someone’s process rather than their results, while discipline describes the opposite. Similarly, consistency says I stand up for my beliefs even against strong resistance, while harmony says that I avoid conflict. In both cases, I identify with a balance of the two extremes. In the latter case, I won’t back down from my beliefs, but I avoid expressing a conflicting opinion unless I feel that it’s necessary.

Because of this consistency in words and action, I have become, as Gallup describes it, a ‘conscience’ for my friends. They will come to me with problems when they want to know the ‘right’ thing to do. I do my best to hold fast to standards that I know to be true despite peer pressure against them. Knowing what I stand for allows me to be spontaneous within those self-created rules.

Learner
Interestingly, the ‘Ideas for Action’ for this strength describe my major and career path to a ‘T’. As an accountant, I need to be technically competent, maintain expertise (through annual continued education), and understand constantly changing regulations. Furthermore, I learn best by teaching, which I take full advantage of by tutoring my peers in the classes I did well in. I love taking advantage of learning opportunities and the idea of life-long learning.

On a relational level, I seek to understand the people closest to me by learning what makes them tick. Combining this with harmony, I love to learn from others’ perspectives to find a resolution to problems and gain new insights into life.

VIA Character Strengths
When I took this character assessment last semester, I was surprised by the results. Ironically, I expected humility to be higher on the list. I also never considered kindness as a possible character assessment. While I value self-regulation, I also acknowledge that I lack in that area, so I’m disappointed but not surprised that it came in last.

Overall, I’d like to think I have a little bit of each of these making up my character (perhaps that thinking is why humility came in low…), but I generally agree with their ranking. My leadership foundations professor encouraged us to focus on improving on and developing our top ten characteristics rather than focusing on our lower ranking ones. In this way we can stay positive and only get better rather than despair at trying to improve something we don’t naturally lean towards.

It is interesting to see how each of these characteristics connects with my strengths as determined by Gallup’s StrengthsFinder test. For example, the character judgment fits into the strength harmony because they both describe listening and considering differing opinions as important characteristics. The character honesty fits into the strength consistency in the sense that consistency includes the idea of being honest in your actions – walking your talk.

Each of these areas sounds good and desirable. There isn’t one that I wouldn’t want to have. However, an overbearing characteristic, even a positive one, can have a shadow side. Having a balance between these characteristics is important to being a “well-rounded” leader.

In my own leadership roles, I Appreciate the work of each team member and express that Gratitude publicly. When I attempt to cultivate group harmony, I rely on Humor to break the ice and engage everyone. Tying in with my strength of Harmony, my Judgment characteristic compels me to listen to all sides of an argument before offering a conclusion. Similarly, the characteristic Perspective plays on my strength of Connectedness by allowing me to hear everyone’s opinions, find the common ground, and regurgitate this gathered wisdom in a new perspective that others can relate to and utilize.

While my Curiosity would seem to fit perfectly with my Learner strength, it also works with my Harmony strength in the sense that I seek out experts to satisfy it. When I don’t know something, as often happens when I’m tutoring a student, I exercise my Honesty characteristic and openly admit it. Fortunately for me, most students bring their textbooks so if that happens, we can exercise Judgment and Curiosity to search for the correct answer.

In the months after I took this test, I grew in confidence in my Humor and worked to develop Self-Regulation and Perseverance by committing to a strict diet for a number of weeks. My biggest weakness has always been food and my sweet tooth, so completely cutting out sugar for 15 weeks was an enormous accomplishment, especially considering my past record of lasting only 36 hours!

Reflection
Based on the results of both of these tests and my increased understanding of their meaning, my leadership philosophy has definitely changed to a more inclusive style. Previously, I would approach leadership as a very top-down endeavor. In past leadership roles, I either had to be acknowledged as in-charge or I would lose interest in the group and venture to solve the problem on my own. Every part of every process had to be micro-managed because I was the only one who knew the right way to do something. I was over confident in my abilities and considered every one else’s ideas to be inferior to my own.

My opinion has drastically shifted over time, due in large part to experience in leadership roles and lessons learned in classes at APU. Now my leadership philosophy is much more group-oriented. I have learned to delegate responsibilities, to trust a team member to do their best, and to appreciate their results. Realizing where I am strong and where I have no idea what I’m doing has helped me to practice humility and let others have their say in the process. Funnily enough, the results usually turn out much better than they would have if I had done it all myself.

Perhaps more important than learning how to lead, or at least equally so, are the lessons I learned on how to be a valuable follower. These leadership strengths and skills can be just as important to exercise as a follower. My strengths play well in a support role, which I was able to experience at my summer internship position. My detail-oriented strengths that come with both discipline and consistency were valuable to my superiors because it freed them up to focus on larger issues at hand. My harmony connectedness helped me to enjoy the monotonous and often tedious jobs I was assigned because I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself.

Overall, these assessments have helped me to evaluate my strengths, characteristics, and leadership styles and consider way that I can improve both myself and any group I might be a part of. They will also help me to evaluate other leaders and determine who I would work well with and who I should follow. The information I’ve learned here will continue to influence my thinking and strategy for the future.

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