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5 Observations About Christian Leaders and their CliftonStrengths

5 Observations about CliftonStrengths

Over the course of the past six weeks, I’ve had the privilege of extended conversations with eight leaders about their CliftonStrengths and how they’re coming to life in leadership. 

What a gift!

These leaders are living their strengths in life-giving ways. 

The conversations are for a podcast I co-host and produce called LeaderCast. As I post this, three of the conversations are available. Five more will drop over the next five weeks. 

CliftonStrengths in the Church

It’s a joy to experience the ways leaders are leveraging their talents to lead in this current climate. Between a pandemic, racial unrest, and a presidential election, there a myriad of opinions in the body of Christ right now.

How’s that for an understatement?

However, these eight leaders model five attributes on a consistent basis. Their roles are in suburban, urban, and small village communities. Yes, their contexts vary. They lead a variety of sizes of churches from a megachurch to large, mid, and to small(er) congregations. Some are starting new churches, others have started new churches, and still, others are trying to restart the church in the midst of a pandemic. They are parents, spouses, pastors. Men and women. Most of all, each one of them is an unapologetic Jesus follower who embodies God’s grace.

Here are the five things they’re reminding me in this season of leadership.

Self-awareness is a never-ending journey. 

First, these individuals know who and whose they are. Yet, because their context and ministry continue to change, they know they are changing too. Self-awareness doesn’t scare them, it makes them better partners, parents, and pastors. The comfort they show in their own skin (yes, we all have our moments) to be who God created them to be shines in unique, beautiful ways. 

This is where their CliftonStrengths made me smile. 

Let me be clear. There is not a tool called CliftonStrengths for churches. CliftonStrengths is a scientifically based tool to identify your talents – the natural way you think, feel, and behave. It is by investing in your talents that they become strengths. Yes, it takes effort to develop your strengths.

The diversity of their top 5 CliftonStrengths between them was a gift. If I made a list of their top 5 CliftonStrengths, we’d probably have 25 out of the 34 CliftonStrengths. Learner, Competition, Communication, Positivity, Woo, Relator just to name a few. 

Knowing their strengths helps them identify the people they need around them.

Humble, Teachable Hearts

Second, they lead with humble, teachable hearts. Even when Command and Self-Assurance show up, because of their relationship with Jesus, they are humble. 

While one person we spoke with leads with Learner, each one of them continues to learn, adapt, and grow as Jesus follower and as leaders. 

Talent Scouts

Third, they welcome a diversity of gifts and talents in the people around them. 

Each leader spoke about equipping and empowering others to lead. Building teams is in their DNA. They don’t run this race as sprinters, they develop teams that build up each other up. 

In the midst of racial unrest, each leader is responding with grace and gumption. Their eyes and hearts are tuned to the diversity among us that brings out the talents of others. They’re natural talent scouts. They might not use CliftonStrengths language, but they look for and recognize the talents in others that can be nurtured to strengths. 


Fourth, they are adaptable and available. 

A couple of leaders have Arranger and Adaptability in their top five. 

Most did not. 

But, they used the talent themes they do have to navigate this season of leadership. For example, one leader with Competition and Command reminds her team that “we only win when we all win.” Another leader uses her Futuristic and Strategic to find the best route while keeping focused on the goal. 

Three of these leaders pray every day on Facebook – from their back porch, their study at home, the couch in the extra bedroom, after running, after getting kids to bed, and before the first cup of morning coffee is complete. That’s adaptability.

All of these leaders learned how to do online worship – even if they were already streaming their worship services before COVID-19. And, each leader recognizes the centrality of discipleship. The urgency of disciple-making came to the forefront during the pandemic for some. For others, disciple-making is who they are and how they lead.

A Sense of Humor

Fifth, they have a sense of humor. Laughter filled our conversations. Not one of them took themselves too seriously, even though the work they do and the responsibilities they hold are vitally important. 

While this isn’t one of the 34 CliftonStrengths talent themes, it is a characteristic of most leaders I know who are effective at equipping others and building teams that transform communities. Tied to their humility, none of them took themselves too seriously. 

Together, these leaders are reminding me of the value CliftonStrengths for churches and Christian leaders. They’re also reminding that our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is accomplished through every CliftonStrengths talent theme. The 34 CliftonStrengths talent themes approach disciple-making in unique ways. And to that I can only say, thanks be to God.

What characteristics are you seeing in leaders that are navigating this season with resilience and from their strengths? Let me know below!

Interested in learning more about how to leverage your top 5 CliftonStrengths in leadership?

2 replies
  1. Nancy Riley
    Nancy Riley says:

    Sara, I think you posted the url for Clifton test on line – could you please send it to me again? I still have yet to take the test and would like to do that. Thanks.

    • Sara Thomas
      Sara Thomas says:

      Here’s the link to take the assessment. https://store.gallup.com/c/en-us/assessments Scroll down to “Top 5 CliftonStrengths”. While I love the full 34 reports and it offers a tremendous amount of insight and learning, I also know most people don’t want to drop $49 on something. You can always unlock the full 34 at a later date. Sending this to you via an email as well! -Sara

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