Stronger Together: A strengths-based leadership approach to field building

Marissa Tirona

Before joining the Foundation in January, I spent the last five years co-leading the team that designed the Strong Field Project Leadership Development Program (LDP).  As part of that work, we supported leaders from California’s domestic violence field in their distinct, yet connected, leadership journeys.  We endeavored to introduce approaches that could amplify these leaders’ existing and emerging leadership practices as they navigated their roles within their organizations, networks, and the DV field as a whole. 

One of the primary frameworks we introduced was strengths-based leadership. This framework is built upon the premise that “identifying weaknesses and ‘fixing’ what is broken” – which is the traditional approach to improving workplace performance — ultimately does not deliver the best results. Instead, a strengths-based approach identifies and develops an individual’s unique leadership skills to help them maximize their natural talents and potential. 

Within the DV field, this focus on strengths is not a new concept. For decades, leaders in DV agencies have used strengths-based approaches in their work. However, we quickly saw that they weren’t applying the same approaches to support their own resiliency and growth.  Through the LDP we hoped to illuminate this fact, and provide DV leaders with the tools and strategies to reinforce their strengths, help cultivate the strengths of their colleagues, and ultimately integrate and amplify the combined talent of their organization. 

As the program moved forward, strengths-based leadership emerged as a key agent of change for DV leaders and we realized that we needed to harvest and share our learnings with the field and beyond. The paper we produced, “Working From Strengths to End Domestic Violence: How Strengths-Based Leadership Is Transforming California’s Domestic Violence Field,” represents a collective chorus on working, managing, leading, and collaborating from a place of individual and collective strength. The amazing DV leaders featured in the paper – and the countless others who inspire, catalyze, and compel us – are building upon their strengths not only to enhance and transform their own leadership roles, but also to bring more innovative ideas to the table and challenge established norms to advance the entire movement.

Recognizing this valuable contribution to the field, the Foundation continues to support the professional and personal development of DV leaders through its funding for additional LDP cohorts led by Compasspoint Nonprofit Services. I’m excited about what comes next for these LDP participants, and the field, as they light the way to a brighter future for survivors, their families, and communities across California.  

Strengths-Based Leadership Impacts

  • Leaders of domestic violence agencies in California are becoming more confident, delegating more, and recommitting to their jobs and their leadership roles.
  • Leaders are shifting work behaviors to focus on strengths so they become more productive and more effective.
  • Leaders are working smarter with teams to make the most of everybody’s collective strengths.
  • Organizations are supporting their staffs to apply their strengths so they can improve overall performance and morale, while increasing innovation.

What’s Next:

  • The field is tapping into a group of current and emerging leaders who are working from strengths to step into fieldwide leadership positions.
  • Leaders in local and statewide networks are engaging new stakeholders and opening the circle to new voices.

Link to the final report:

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