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The Strength Deployment Inventory and Leadership


Guest articles > The Strength Deployment Inventory and Leadership


by: John Fillingham


John Fillingham, lead international trainer from 4sightsolutions explains why SDI is his preferred tool for uncovering leadership strengths and understanding team motivation…

In this day and age when psychometric tools seem to promise amazing enlightenment through a 10 page question self assessment “experience”, spewing out results that only someone with 2 doctorates can interpret, it is refreshing to find something that isn’t quite so complicated to complete and even easier to understand.

The Strength Deployment Inventory is an amazingly straight forward tool, highly visual, that goes beyond behaviours to reveal our driving motivation and core strengths and have them independently confirmed. Based on more than 30 years of research by psychologist Elias H Porter, from which he developed his Relationship Awareness Theory™, today the SDI is recognised as an accessible, easy to understand 3 colour (Blue, Red, Green) systematic approach in revealing what makes people tick and more importantly clarifies individual and team strengths, in 2 situations: when things are going well and when conflict is taking place.

From a leadership perspective this is incredibly useful in determining how individuals and teams might be effectively led -though the rapid understanding of team dynamics but also in creating a rewarding environment, thus avoiding the “square pegs in round holes” situation. The use of such tools as the SDI are vital in understanding individual motivation in changing situations , ensuring the leader can flex their style to suit.

Leaders can also discover, through the SDI process, their own leadership style strengths and weaknesses and decide how best to deal with their own skill gaps. Is it practical to develop these or be surrounded with those who have that missing strength? At CEO level it could be considered an easy choice, however can your organisation afford to hire these people, or can it not, often a financial dilemma.

For me a common mistake in organisational development is focusing singularly on weaknesses. Dr. Porter’s theory states that weaknesses are either a wrongly applied or over stated strength. A fascinating reframe - which in my own personal experience helped me sort through my hyper flexibility and effectively “calm it down”.

The rise in stress in organisations today could be attributed to not only the pressure of workload but also people “acting” in roles or taking on responsibilities which go against their primary values and motivation, the SDI helps clarify these points for us. The SDI can also help us fine tune our career choices, as certain professions and job roles require specific skill sets, which of course we can all learn to master, but when you lift the surface and focus on motivation, we should be vigilant to ensure that we will feel satisfactorily fulfilled in our route choice or when taking on new responsibilities and that they will meet the expectations of our core motivational values.

Conflict is another facet of behaviour that the SDI examines and our often shifting behavioural responses. Often we think conflict is something to avoid but what is better in encouraging diversity and stimulating creativity if it is handled in the right way. A solution created solely in one person’s mind is often limited by their own paradigm. It is essential to involve other perspectives to achieve a fully rounded result. Often organisational and team performance is hindered and slowed down through the failure to resolve conflict, costing unseen amounts of both time and money. Finding a safe way to open up discussions that are controversial or difficult can be a big challenge, but none the less important. Using a common language and framework vehicle can make a huge difference in speeding up the process of resolution and creating a win/win situation.

In this period of intense change and re-organisation, the SDI can help the transition between old and new. Post any type of dramatic HR “surgery”, switched on leaders recognise the importance of rebuilding morale and managing through the “settling down period”. Using a tool such as the SDI re-invigorates the focus on the positive, spotlighting strengths and concentrating on looking forward to create strong, well formed relationships. Certainly useful in the change management process too, the SDI has many applications which you can only begin to discover once you’ve sampled the experience of what the SDI has to offer.


For individuals or teams the SDI could be the solution you are looking for “racking up” leadership engagement skills, team morale and organisational performance, you can contact for further details.

Contributor: John Fillingham

Published here on: 15-Feb-09

Classification: HR, Development, Leadership


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