July 11, 2014 by VIA Institute on Character ·
As any successful leader will say, it is important to know thyself – to know one’s strengths and how to use them in managing or leading a group of people toward a common mission or goal. This is particularly important for “positional leaders” who have a role at their company to manage a group of people. The more that these positional leaders can bring forth their own character strengths as well as to help those they lead to be aware of and use their strengths, the potential for success increases.
What is not discussed as often is “situational leadership.” This refers to the concept that any individual (even those not in a position of leadership) can temporarily become a “leader” by bringing forth their unique character strengths to contribute to the success of a group or organization. Leadership, in this sense, is a dynamic process in which leadership can change moment to moment and situation to situation. There are times when each member of a team or group “takes the lead,” oftentimes as an expression of his or her signature strengths of character.
Therefore, it is useful for individuals who are part of a group or team to know not only the strengths of the other members but also the unique strengths of the other members – those unique strengths that only one or two members have. For example, it might be that most of a particular team’s members are high in fairness and curiosity, however, only one member is high in creativity, and only one member is high in hope. The team can then look to the member high in creativity for additional ideas when brainstorming is needed and the team can turn to the member high in hope when they are overwhelmed with tasks and beginning to get down on themselves. Any team member can encourage the expression of what is best in the others members. High functioning teams are characterized by a dynamic give and take involving all members. While a team member with love of learning may step forward to report information and facts and lead such a discussion, a team member with perspective may step forward to offer a summary statement that leads the group forward in decision-making.
The character strength of leadership
Of the 24 universal character strengths measured by the VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA Survey), one is indeed the strength of leadership. This strength loads under the virtue of justice, which is the larger category that involves civic strengths that help to build a healthy, prosperous community. It is important to note that leadership, in this survey, is defined as:
Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same time, to maintain good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.
One could say that what is being measured is “little l” leadership as opposed to “Big L” leadership, the latter of which refers to those major “movers and shakers” who express leadership on a wide scale such as the CEO of a company or the mayor of a city. In contrast, “little l” refers to that capacity in every person to lead, to organize people, and to mobilize a group toward a common idea or goal. This has also been referred to as “everyday leadership.”