Friday, May 13, 2016

StrengthsQuest and Anti-Strengths

In preparation for a week-long institute in Los Angeles sponsored by the AAC&U, I have been asked to read the Gallup's Strengths-Based Leadership book and to revisit my strengths.  I took the test originally about four years ago and I can't say that taking it again would change anything, really.

I totally subscribe to their philosophy of focusing on strengths and not spending all one's time trying to remediate weaknesses.  I also like the idea that no leader will have all the strengths but that he/she should build a team around him/her that does represent all or most of them.

I think this is clearly in line with the Scriptural view of spiritual gifts and how they are given for the church for the mutual benefit, and that all have a gift for mutual edifying. My understanding is that Gallup is a very pro-faith-based organization and I have read other research they do with churches.

Our institution even requires all freshmen to take the test.  So let no one think I am arguing against the strengths philosophy.  I like it very much. However. . .

I realized this week that, like most people, there are two Barbaras.  There is obedient, button-down, fundamentalist, organized, punctual, kind, studious, dependable, hard-working, administrator Barbara.  And there is extroverted, free-spirited, "get on the back of a motorcycle," snarky, wicked sense of humor, novelist, tap-into-subconscious, somewhat lazy, film noir, don't tell me what to do Barbara.  So now the second Barbara is going to write (which usually happens).

In reading the descriptions of the "strengths" and the research behind them, I noticed that they were "spun" to be all positive.  However, it is just as likely that these strengths have anti-strengths, or downsides.  I'll stick with mine, since I can't speak for others, but these are the strengths and anti-strengths.

Learner:  Always learning and never coming to a conclusion; too bookish; more likely to get other people to talk than talking about yourself (a colleague once pointed out that that shows a lack of trust in the other person to listen or take in the information).  Proud of what I have read and like to mention books I read recently.

Responsibility:  I am the only person who can do this right, so I will only pretend to get other people to help or get their input.

Achiever:  Work-alcoholic.  Living by a to-do list.  A good day is one with the boxes checked off, not quality time spent with others.  This one I am really working on.

Input:  Pack-rat.  One need only walk into my house.  Very hard to get rid of things.  It's even worse when married to the same strength! (I really don't see this as a strength at all).

Belief.  Dogmatic and Pharisaical.

On top of it, some of the other strengths, which I apparently don't have in excess, are just sexier than these.

As I take on a new leadership role, I am conscious of my lack of charisma and coolness.  I have to compensate for it by dependability and new ideas and follow-through.  That's ok.  Charisma and coolness (and Woo, as Gallup calls it) would be a heavy burden, at least for me.  I don't have the energy for it.  I also think one would be more open to criticism for those than for being dependability.  

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