Guiding Leaders to their Genius

Don Clifton said, “For every one strength we have, we have at least a thousand weaknesses.” People will only ever improve a finite amount in their weaknesses. However, they can develop and enhance their natural strengths exponentially. Great leaders are people who know who they are and who they are not and can become comfortable with both. They are highly attuned to their own and their team’s grind, greatness, genius zones. This level of self-awareness drives decent leaders to greatness. This is because they learn to leverage their strengths for the greater good of the organization. At 34 Strong it is our daily mission to guide leaders to better understand and harness their natural strengths

The Triple G’s

Leaders who value understanding their own personal strengths gain greater insight on their teams. They, in turn, apply that same strength-based lens when viewing their team members. Understanding the strengths of a team and creating opportunities for members to regularly operate from their strengths results in top performance, high engagement, and realized potential. One of the ways the 34 Strong team explains the potential inherit in a strengths-based leadership approach is through the 3 G’s: Grind, Greatness, and Genius.

In the Grind

The 3 G’s reveal where you are and what is possible by focusing on strengths for yourself and your team. You know you are in the grind zone when you’re just showing up and going through the motions. Grind is doing the job because it’s the job. Yes, you are responding to emails, attending meetings, checking tasks off the list but it doesn’t engage you. This will cause you to leave work feeling drained. It is important to feel strong, energized and invigorated by experiencing the intersection of your passion with your livelihood.

Living in Greatness

Then there’s greatness. When we talk to leaders about understanding where their greatness lies, we ask “When do they feel strong?”

The Five Indicators of a Strength include:

  1. You are enthusiastic about what you are doing
  2. Your work comes easy
  3. Others recognize your talent and rely on you to do it and do it well
  4. Your work infuses rather than drains your energy
  5. You enjoy your work. We typically are willing to give an extra push and persevere through challenges when we truly enjoy something.

These five indicators offer strikingly clear evidence of natural strengths. When a person works within their zone of greatness they not only perform at their personal best but they benefit their team, the entire organization, and ultimately their customers or constituents. Operating in your zone of greatness produces a quadruple win.

Thriving in Genius

The genius zone is the area where leaders are the best of the best. Don Clifton said, “If you spend ten thousand hours developing an area of strength, it will become for you better than at least ten thousand people.” Malcolm Gladwell followed that up, saying “Ten thousand hours in any one area could produce a strength.” We see leaders who have invested significant chunks of their lives to developing a particular strength reside in this zone. Through intentional development, honing and experience genius emerges. While we aren’t counting 10,000 hours as the mark at which one moves from greatness to genius, we do know that longevity, commitment and development are keys to genius. Your genius becomes your calling card, your brand, the legacy you leave.

Gallup defines strength as near flawless, consistent performance. While that seems like an unattainable goal, it comes from knowing your natural strengths. Try to develop your strengths across every area of your life for an extended period of time. People around you come to expect a certain, consistent, remarkable outcome every time you are operating within your strength.

Turning the Grind to Genius

While we believe every leader – with time and growth – can operate in the genius zone, we see it rarely happen because society as told us not to focus on our strengths but rather to put true elbow grease into remedying our
weaknesses. We were taught to focus on areas that don’t make us feel strong because we have to in the “real world.” The reality is yes, you will grind but you can also operate in greatness and eventually genius too. The statistics prove that a leader who works in their greatness or genius finds a higher Return on Investment of their time.

With the 3 G’s as a guide, we have leaders audit their time and indicate when they are grinding, when they are in their greatness and where their genius lies. Leaders that tailor their time according to these three zones can increase productivity and engagement for them and those they work alongside. Marcus Buckingham wagers that spending 80% of your time in the greatness zone and 20% in the grind will produce your absolute strongest outcomes. The reality is most leaders currently reside around a 50/50 or 60/40 split between the two zones. We believe that through an awareness of strengths, and appreciation for the 3 G’s, and an application of natural strengths to clearly defined development goals we can guide leaders to realizing their genius.


Brandon Miller is the Co-Founder and CEO of 34 Strong Inc. and co-author of the book Play to Their Strengths (June 2019), a book written with his wife, Analyn Miller, on parenting our children from a strengths-based lens. Brandon’s top five strengths are: Maximizer, Achiever, Activator, Strategic, and Arranger.

When you are ready to create the workplace culture that you envisioned, where people are engaged, valued for being valuable and play to their Strengths, 34 Strong will be here to help you make that a reality.