In the introduction of their book Living Your Strengths: Discover your God-given talents and inspire your Community, Dr. Albert Winseman, Dr. Donald Clifton, and Curt Liesveld argue that a spiritual leader will be more fruitful if he or she focuses on his or her existing natural strengths rather than on present weaknesses or even a potential God-given future strength(1). The implication is that an essential quality of a leader is the ability to keep his or her focus on, and lead out of, his or her strengths. “You will be most successful in whatever you do,” they write, “by building your life around your greatest natural abilities rather than your weaknesses”(2). Winseman, Clifton, and Liesveld’s concept from this Gallup Press project and others like it(3) have found their way into Christian leadership books and articles; but are they right? This is an important question for the faithful minister seeking a fruitful ministry. Is there a time or an event that necessitates that the minister need be more than merely aware of a personal weakness and instead expend energy shoring it up? Is there a possibility that one could, through various means, develop a ministry strength that is not presently manifested within the minister? Or might God call a minister to a task in which the minister will receive the talent, skills, knowledge, and ability to fulfill this calling at a later time? If Winseman, Clifton, and Leisveld are correct, the answer is clearly no.
This review will examine Winesman, Clifton, and Leisveld’s thesis. In doing so, differing contemporary works on this leadership concept will be surveyed. The Bible will also be consulted to examine the texts Winesman, Clifton, and Leisveld appeal to for support. Furthermore, this review will conclude that while there are convincing reasons to avoid expending too much energy on one’s weaknesses, there are indeed times to address weakness. In addition, it is possible that present natural abilities will not necessarily determine the path to the greatest success and present natural strengths may not be the best tools to fulfill God’s call upon one’s life. While focusing on one’s strengths is a leadership quality, understanding the right focus is essential of any leader.