This week for Assessing Leadership, we read Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rather from Gallup and took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 Assessment, which reports back insights on “talents” each of us has. The following is my post for class exploring my top 5 talents, what they are in my own words, and how I want to develop them going forward. 

  1. Write your top 5 themes and in your own words, write a short description of each. 

Strategic—uses experience and knowledge to quickly assess a scenario and create different, forward paths, as well as identifies pitfalls to avoid.

Intellection—creates space in the mind for thinking and introspection.

Maximizer—facilitates excellence by homing in on “what works” and the talents of others.

Ideation—explores and analyzes ideas finding connections in what otherwise might seem unconnected.

Input—collects knowledge, things, experiences, mementos, and relationships as an archive from which to draw.


  1. For your top 5 themes, describe the value, how you feel honored, and how you feel insulted.

Within Strategic, I prize efficiency. I want to do things well and do them correctly the first time. I feel honored by mastering a process. And while I appreciate working through a challenging problem and iterating on solutions, along with my next talent, Intellection, I find great satisfaction in figuring out a suitable solution without having the spend extra time trying and failing. As such, I loathe busy work or projects that exist without a payoff. And I can feel slighted if I offer a solution I am confident will work and someone insists on pursuing a try-and-fail-try again process.

For Intellection, I cherish thoughtfulness. I admire when people appreciate that I take the time and apply this talent to a problem to offer a solution that will save time or money, achieve the desired outcome, and possibly even spark joy. When another person takes the time to think through something and brings me an idea, I am excited to come alongside and help. Conversely, I rarely maintain patience for the practice of “throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.” “Well, maybe this will work” might as well be fingers on a chalkboard. And, you will likely find consternation on my face if you ask for my thoughts and summarily dismiss them.

I see Maximizer as an output of my Input collecting spirit. When I have seen things work, when I know what makes a person tick or light up, I use that knowledge to replicate success. I value self-awareness in others who can say, “this will help me do better,” so I can do my part as a team member to augment his or her success. Seeing others excel is honoring for me. When another person is tapped for a task when I am the go-to person, I take it personally. It takes me out of my self-awareness and causes me to question whether I let down the person or have failed to shine brightly enough.

Ideation makes me a fantastic marketer and graphic designer. I highly value my intellectual command of ideas and my ability to learn new things quickly. Drawing connections between different ideas or translating complicated, jargony ideas into accessible ones adds value to my teams and final products. I delight in seeing a face light up with a new understanding or by making a new connection to an idea. But, when that idea falls flat, my spirit suffers.

Generally, Input is about collecting and convening all the ideas and experiences, knowledge of others and things, as well as physical pieces together for reference and memorial. The Insights document revealed that I collect words and have an affinity for language. I do keep all of my work. Archiving is a craft instilled in me as a young artist. You always want to go back to old work for inspiration and ideas. And who knows? My nephew’s children may find new value and meaning in my experiences. I value careful curation of the past. As with Intellection earlier, I treasure thoughtfulness—knowing the importance and value of keeping a record. I am disappointed when my ideas go unappreciated. If I take the time to curate memories and stories to help you feel better or help us get to a solution, and you don’t acknowledge the effort, then I will be hurt.


  1. Which theme(s) in your top 5 would you like to develop the most as a leader, and why?

I challenged MAOL in large part to master organizational strategy. I had no idea Strategic Thinking would be the “official” domain of my talents. It is a pleasant surprise—each of the talents within Strategic Thinking works in concert for me, one informing the other. I absorb information; I process it, I use it to synthesize new ideas.

My excitement for living as “a strategic” can be isolating. I know that I have a big personality and a strong presence in a room. I will insert my thinking into conversations and am happy to dominate a conversation. As a maximizer, I share small successes with everyone. I often dance around the marketing pod at work showing off a new layout, hoping other people will share my joy. But I hear feedback that I come off as a child in need of constant validation or merely a braggart. I hear I am intimidating, and people don’t know how to perform to my level. I interpret cold shoulders the same way I did as a school kid: I’m the nerd who likes school and doesn’t like soccer, so I have to make friends some other way.

I laid out my anxieties here because I realize these strategic thinking talents are my real talents. They describe my fulfillment and delight. They also explain how I find success in work. Interviewing for my last job, I told them one of my strengths is the way I think. “Let’s talk about the problem you want to solve, how you see the solution affecting the change you’re after, and then let me help you figure out how best to get there.”

I find myself performing well when I have the confidence to speak up for my talents—and crippled with self-consciousness knowing that others often interpret my talents as arrogance or aloofness.

These exercises are opportunities to start mastering the hows and whys behind how I perform well and curtail the insecurity. What I bring is valuable. Specifically, Strategic can change the game for organizations stuck in a performance pit with low morale. I see developing this talent as a critical component to my success in MAOL. I also value Maximizer in other people so much, people who understand what works and how to adapt new situations, replicate success and create resonance for the team doing the work. I want to connect with others as much as I like spending time alone, and Maximizer provides that opportunity to shine with others.