Leadership seminar identifies student strengths

Megan Sinderson/ GVL
Students discover how to maximize their strengths in current and future leadership roles during a Strengths Based Leadership Program in Kirkhof on Tuesday.

Megan Sinderson/ GVL Students discover how to maximize their strengths in current and future leadership roles during a Strengths Based Leadership Program in Kirkhof on Tuesday.

Ellie Phillips

Members of the Grand Valley State University Community Service Learning Center, Student Life Office and the Laker Leadership Program hosted the first half of the Strengths Based Leadership Seminar Tuesday. The seminar is geared toward helping students discover their strengths and learn how to maximize them in their current and future leadership roles.

“Research shows that the best of the best build their lives upon their greatest talents,” said Jordan Irving, an intern for the CSLC and the Laker Leadership Program. “They invest in their talents to improve and increase their performance, and they manage their weaknesses.”

To help participants discover their greatest talents, they take the Clifton StrengthsFinder test, a 30-minute web-based assessment of normal personality from the perspective of positive psychology. The test reveals a person’s top five strengths out of 34 ‘signature themes,’ which are the most commonly held of the 400 identified personality themes.

Participants won’t get the full effect simply by taking the test, however. The seminar is developed to help define and apply those strengths to the lives of those who take the test.

The seminar involved several activities that helped relate the strengths of each participant to their own life; in one activity they were given scenarios, and asked which of two actions they would take in that scenario, and then relate that to their top five strengths.

Another activity involved writing their name with their dominant hand in five different ways, and then repeating the process with their non-dominant hand. This exercise helped demonstrate why successful people build on their strengths: they’re more comfortable and capable when they use them, instead of their weaknesses.

Another major element of the seminar helped put the strengths in perspective of ways in which they might not be helpful—a potential barrier to their success.

“A barrier label is a term for when a talent is mistakenly devalued or dismissed as a weakness…the dark side of it,” said Sarah Wojnicki, a graduate assistant for Student Life within the leadership programs.

This part of the seminar helped identify possible barrier labels for the top strengths of each participant, and made the participants aware of those potential drawbacks, but also of the potential benefits of their strengths as well.

‘Competition,’ for example, is a strength that could negatively impact relationships with others if the individual who is competitive turns too many things into a competition that really shouldn’t be one. ‘Belief’ is a strength that could make someone come across as stubborn, and someone with the strength of ‘harmony’ may be seen as a people-pleaser. These strengths don’t just have dark sides—they have good sides too, and those are the elements the seminar focuses upon.

The seminar was geared toward students, but the StrengthsFinder assessment has been used to train faculty and student workers at GVSU and throughout North America. It has been used by more than five million people on more than 600 campuses on the continent.

Those who have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment are welcome to attend the second part of the seminar Feb. 26 from 1-3 p.m. in Kirkhof Center, room 1142.

For more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/leadership/strengths-based-leadership-seminar-retreat-83.htm.

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