Leading a Strengths-Based Organization

To embed strengths deep in your organization’s DNA, answer who, why, and how
By Tom Matson, Gallup Senior Education Program Manager

Organizations and campuses that have successfully embedded strengths deep in their DNA leverage the talents of more than just one or a few leaders. They connect strengths-based development with meaningful outcomes, and they are fueled by more than a mere passion for learning about strengths. To embed strengths deep in your organization’s DNA, answer who, how, and why.


Shaping a strengths-based culture takes more than just one leader or advocate. The talents of one person are not enough to be successful. Instead, a well-rounded and representative team is required. This group should be large enough to create impact, yet small enough to make timely decisions.


Once your strengths team is in place, the next step is to figure out which measurable outcomes you aim to affect. Why would your campus or organization invest in strengths? How will you know if it worked? Improved engagement and well-being are just two examples of why you would bring strengths to your organization. Strengths is how you improve these business metrics, though — not why.

Within Gallup clients, we’ve seen organizations aim their strengths efforts at various performance outcomes. One organization may use strengths to increase employee engagement and profit. A university may use strengths to enhance the engagement, well-being, retention, and career preparedness of its students. For your strengths effort to be successful, you must clearly articulate and communicate the reason your organization is implementing strengths.


As organizations seek improvement through strengths, they can measure success through individual and team outcomes. A strengths-based organization encourages its people to use their talents to boost their personal engagement and well-being — and to achieve the key outcomes of their role.

For example, when you look at a team through a strengths-based lens, you may see talents that are not being used in a healthy, productive way. In this case, the reason might not be lack of strengths development; it might have to do with the engagement of members of that team. To build a strengths-based organization, employees must put their strengths into action and understand how engagement, well-being, and strengths intersect. If their well-being or engagement aren’t in a good place, their top five strengths look and feel very different to those around them.

To help employees grow, great managers won’t just talk with them about their strengths. Instead, these managers help employees understand how they can use their talents to increase their engagement and well-being by asking probing questions about expectations, developmental needs, and recognition — and helping them define quality work. Great managers use strengths to develop individuals and build teams that create growth and success.

As your organization integrates strengths, remember to first answer the key questions who, why, and how. Those answers will help your organization embed strengths in its DNA. More importantly, it will help you and your employees meet the key outcomes that matter to your organization’s success.

Leading Your Team