by Nathaniel Urban
As a rising undergraduate student the StrengthsFinder analysis has shown me the leadership qualities I possess that will allow me to succeed in my future. I already had a basic set of knowledge of what works and what does not work for me in many given situations. StrengthsFinder, however, is what confirmed the perceptions that I associated my leadership style with. I know that understanding the past, constantly improving my character, continuously learning, solving problems, and engaging in intellectual conversation are all part of my character. StrengthsFinder allowed me to recognize the positive effects of my leadership style as well as what could be potentially harmful to it.
My first strength, one that describes the best of my leadership style, is context. Context is about researching the events and patterns of the past to help me understand the present. Context allows me to become wiser about the future because I can see how the past led to the present. I am confident in my decision making and planning of the future when I am familiar with the historical context of the past. Context is a dominant theme in my leadership style so I like to read historical novels or biographies that provide me with the insight to understanding the present. The present would be nothing if it were not for the events that occurred in the past.
The weaknesses of this strength are important to be aware of because they could have a negative effect on my leadership style. One weakness, for example, is that I may feel confused or irritated when I cannot see patterns coming from past events. A situation like that may prevent me from gaining the confidence I need to move forward. Other people may feel that I am holding them back because it could take a significant amount of time for me to discover the history of the given situation before we all move forward together.
I demonstrated strong context in one situation when I was elected to an executive position in my fraternity. I was unsure of how I should lead from my new position aside from doing the work that was required of me. I decided to read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and Winston Churchill’s My Early Life to gain some insight on the leadership context found within each text. Each one allowed me to visualize three different ideas of what makes a strong, good leader as well as what would make a weak, unfair leader. I gained the confidence to lead more effectively from my new position after reading those texts.
My second strength is being a learner because of the drive I have to continuously learn more and improve my talents. Whether it is learning a new idea, method, or possibility, I tend to get excited about it. The process of learning is as important to me as the knowledge I gain. Learning builds my confidence when I know that my time is being invested in learning a new subject. New rules or circumstances do not typically intimidate me, rather, I am positive about how new information can be beneficial to me or a group of people. A weakness of this strength, however, is that I do not really feel motivated to become an expert on any one specific subject matter. I would rather be exposed to new sources of knowledge than be confined to one area of expertise. I do not have a particular set of skills that I keep up to date which may require me to take a longer amount of time learning about relevant subject matters.
When I worked at home I worked for a small, local company called Legends Sports Photography. We were mainly responsible for photographing the youth sports leagues in surrounding areas. I demonstrated my strength of being a learner when my boss decided to teach me how to become a photographer. Prior to being a photographer, my job dealt with handling customer’s order information. I showed interest in becoming a photographer and soon I acquired the skills to start photographing our customers. I was thrilled about this opportunity and even more thrilled gaining the confidence to use a camera and still process customer’s order information.
My input strength is closely related to learner because I always want to know more. I like to wrap my head around books, ideas, quotes, movies, and facts. There are a limited amount of things I do not find interesting but naturally I hold a deep sense of curiosity. My new pursuits of knowledge and truth keep my mind sharp because I know that nearly every piece of knowledge I gain can one day be valuable. I enjoy increasing my vocabulary, accepting the idea that I will never know enough, and sharing what I know with other people. A weakness about this strength is that sometimes I will absorb too much information that will prevent me from focusing on the information needed for a certain situation. The enjoyment of reading is associated with input strength, so I may have trouble learning through “doing” something rather than learning through “reading” something. My curiosity may also distract me from obtaining the relevant information I need in order to complete a task.
I demonstrated this strength last year along with a close fraternity brother of mine. We were curious about, not only what we did not know about each other, but what we did not know about our other fraternity brothers. Every Monday night, to fulfill our curiosity, we organized a movie and discussion night where we would watch an iconic film in cinema and discuss what we gained from it afterwards. Each week there were about six of us watching movies that included Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Midnight in Paris, Pulp Fiction, Saving Private Ryan, and The Shawshank Redemption. We discussed these movies for the enjoyment of learning something that we could not have learned if it was not for our other brother’s input.
Restorative is a good strength that is part of my leadership style because solving problems is something that I feel confident in accomplishing. I am able to enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms of a problem, identifying what needs to be fixed, and then finding the solution. Solving a problem also gives me the courage to tackle another one when it may appear to be worse than past problems. I am confident in telling others that I comfortable enough to solve problems and that my success results in my ability to do so. I firmly believe that every problem has a solution. The weakness in this strength is that my confidence, in believing I could fix any problem, may result in me not strengthening existing advantages in a situation. I may also try to fix something where the circumstances are just out of my control and there is nothing more I can do about it.
I demonstrated this strength when I worked as a sales representative at Toys R Us because I was constantly solving problems for my customers. There was one day I was working on the sales floor and one customer needed me to check the stock room for an item right as I was about to help a customer carry a trampoline to the register. Another customer, on top of that, needed a bike pulled off of the top shelf. My initial reaction was to panic but instead I carried the trampoline to the register for my first customer and apologized to my second customer for the short delay and retrieved her item from the stock room. I then radioed for one of my co-workers to help the customer with her bike. Customer service was great experience for sharpening my restorative strength.
Intellection is my final, and perhaps favorite, strength because mental activity is something that I have always enjoyed. I like to stretch my brain in many different stimulating directions such as solving a problem, developing an idea, or trying to understand another person’s feelings. Intellection simply dictates that I like to think and not exactly what I am thinking about. There are many subjects, if not at all subjects, which I dedicate time to reflect upon. I spend a lot of time writing my reflections down if I am having trouble sorting them out in my head. I often identify my friends as those who I am able to have intellectually stimulating conversations with on a weekly basis. I also take time to gather my thoughts and collect insights on journeys before I take them. A weakness of this strength is that I may spend too much time reflecting upon a subject that it is preventing me from actually doing it. An excess amount of thinking can create fears that are typically irrational and not present.
I use my intellection strength on a daily basis but one of the most iconic times I used it was before I accepted a summer internship in Washington, D.C. I sat down and made a pros and cons list of the task that was before me. I thought about how I had to leave my home, family, girlfriend, and friends for three months. I reached out to friends who went through similar, if not the same, experiences and we discussed what they had gone through when they completed an internship away from home. We discussed everything from having to buy groceries to learning to be comfortable being alone in a new place. I reflected on the subject for several days before I finally gathered all my thoughts and decided to embark on the adventure.
My top five strengths will work together to create a unique and effective leadership style because each strength is able to use parts of another strength to enhance my performance. I am able to focus on learning because intellectual stimulation is enjoyable for me. When I use my context strength it is because I am eager to learn from the past and apply it to the present. If I did not have my input strength then it would be difficult to find the motivation to pursue new knowledge. Solving a new problem, lastly, involves having to learn a new method of doing something.
When all of my strengths work together there is little to no conflict between them. I am able to use my intellection to help stretch the minds of those I am working with. A situation like that allows them to discover new ways of looking at a problem and solving it. It provides tangible growth and performance to whoever I am trying to help. In the end, finally, I am able to use the context of a problem to see where the solution is going to go.
The organizations that may best benefit from this style of a leader could be advertising firms or political positions. If I were in a position of political power, I would have to understand what was accomplished by the person before me and offer my input. My input could allow legislation to get passed, disputes to be settled, or new relationships formed. If I were in an advertising firm, I would most likely have to learn quickly about the organization’s product to keep up with potential competitors. I would even be able to bring in a new idea that could push the firm forward in a way that they had not looked at before.