34 Strengths from StrengthsFinder



“When we studied them, excellent performers were rarely well rounded. On the contrary, they were sharp.” — Donald O. Clifton

I like learning the language around a given topic to build precision and depth.

When you have a language for something, it helps you to think, organize, and share knowledge more effectively.

A strength, simply put, is something you do extremely well, consistently, and builds on your natural patterns for thinking, feeling, or doing.

The 34 themes of strengths listed below represent an attempt to create a common language for strengths and talents.

To find, study, and explore your strengths, you should know the language of strengths.

Strengths are a Language for Talent

The power of the 34 themes of strengths is that they represent recurring patterns from talent-based interviews.

They give you a lens to see your own strengths and the strengths of others using very specific names (such as positivity, empathy, harmony … etc.).

You will be more effective at developing your own strengths or the strengths of your kids, or teams, or friends.

In Strengths Quest Discover And Develop Your Strengths In Academics, Career, And Beyond, Donald O. Clifton and Edward Anderson share a language for strengths, talents, and abilities.

Key Strengths Insights

Here are some of the key concepts to keep in mind when you are studying strengths:

  • Strengths are the key to success.  Your ability to know, understand and develop your talents influences your success in school, career, and life.  To put it another way, your strengths are your edge.
  • Talent.  According to Clifton and Anderson, a talent is a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.
  • Ability.  According to Clifton and Anderson, ability is “what a person can specifically do.”
  • Strength.  According to Clifton and Anderson, a strength is “the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a given activity.”  In other words, it’s your ability to perform a given function extremely well.   You start with dominant themes of talent and then you refine them into strengths through knowledge, skills and experience.

34 Themes of Strengths and Talent

The 34 themes of talent are organized into 4 quadrants: relating, impacting, striving, and thinking.

  1. In Quadrant 1, Relating, the themes are interpersonal about bonding and connecting.
  2. In Quadrant II, Impacting, the themes are interpersonal about your impact and influence on others.
  3. In Quadrant III, Striving, the themes are about motivation and energy.
  4. In quadrant IV, Thinking, the themes are about information and perception.

Via Strengths Quest Discover And Develop Your Strengths In Academics, Career, And Beyond:

Relating (I)








Striving (III)










Impacting (II)







Thinking (IV)















34 Strengths Explained

Here are summaries of the 34 signature themes of strength based on Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton in the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths:

Strength Description
Achiever A relentless need for achievement.
Activator “When can we start?” is a recurring question in your life.
Adaptability You live in the moment.
Analytical “Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming is true.”
Arranger You are a conductor.
Belief You have certain core values that are enduring.
Command You take charge.
Communication You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public, or to write.
Competition You have a need to outperform your peers.
Connectedness You know that we are all connected.
Context You look back to understand the present.
Deliberative You identify, assess, and reduce risk.
Developer You see the potential in others.
Discipline Your world needs to be ordered and planned.
Empathy You can sense the emotions of those around you.
Fairness Balance is important to you.
Focus Your goals are your compass.
Futuristic “Wouldn’t it be great if …” The future fascinates you.
Harmony You look for areas of agreement.
Ideation You are fascinated by ideas.
Inclusiveness “Stretch the circle wider.” You can to include people and make them feel like part of the group.
Individualization You’re intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.
Input You collection information – words, facts, books and quotations.
Intellection You like to think. You like mental activity.
Learner You love to learn.
Maximizer Excellence, not average, is your measure.
Positivity You are generous with praise, quick with smile, and always on the look out for the positive in the situation.
Relater You derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends.
Responsibility You take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.
Restorative You love to solve problems.
Self-assurance You have faith in your strengths.
Significance You want to be very significant in the eyes of other people.
Strategic You create alternative ways to sort through the clutter and find the best route.
Woo You win others over.


Finding Your Top Five Strengths

There are 33 million different combinations of Signature Themes.

One of the recommended practices in the strengths literature is to find your top five strengths.  If you can identify your top five themes, you can use the information to start cultivating your strengths for personal excellence and stop focusing on weaknesses.

Your top five Signature Themes is your unique combination.

You can use the Clifton StrengthsFinder to identify your top five strengths.  (Note that you’ll need an access code from one of Gallup’s books, such as Strengths Finder 2.0 or Now, Discover Your Strengths.)

If you don’t easily identify your strengths yourself, ask your friends who know you best, what they might think your top five are.  Compare with what you think your top five are.

Also, consider taking the test and see what the Clifton StrengthsFinder thinks your top five are.

Remember, this exercise isn’t about identifying what you want them to be — it’s about identifying where you currently are.

Additional Resources for Strengths Insights

Cheat Sheet of the 34 Strengths (PDF)
MP3 Files of Each Strength

You Might Also Like

Why Strengths?
The Strengths Movement
3 Myths About Strengths and Weaknesses


  1. Hi J.D.,
    This is great, especially how you’ve listed them along with a brief description. With some coaching I was recently doing, one of the things we talked about was focusing on our strengths instead of our weaknesses. I know I’ve heard in the past how it’s good to work on improving our weaknesses. After this coaching, though, I really began to rethink that idea. Instead, by focusing on our strengths, we’re working on something we’re already good at and like to do. Weaknesses are such because they’re probably not something that resonatess with us…maybe that’s a task to get someone else’s help with.

    Anyway, this looks great to review and really see where I believe by best strengths are at – thanks much!

  2. hello J.D.
    I appreciate your continued study on strengths and find it very interesting!

    I think my top 5 strengths might be strategic, restorative, leaner, empathy, and connectedness

    p.s. I did not know that ‘significance’ was a strength, i guess i thought it was a weakness.

    thank you for these helpful tools! I will surely pass this on!
    I am learning so much from your site! Thanks again!


  3. Hi JD – This is really interesting. And these descriptions make it so easy to recognise your strengths instantly. It looks like this is another book I need to check out – it would be useful to be certain of my top 5 strengths.

  4. Hi JD

    In my previous job our team did the Strengths Finder test. It was very interesting. The problem was that that was where HR left it. We didn’t have any sort of follow on sessions where we could learn more about each other and how we could work together better. It was a great pity.

    Lets see if I can remember mine: connectedness, futuristic, input, intellection, strategic….I think.

    I remember laughing cause they all fell in the category of “work smarter not harder”. Given the long hours that that company expected of its employees, as strange as it may seem, I don’t think that result of mine was viewed too positively. (And, certainly a great deal of the work done at the company was harder and not smarter.)


  5. @ Lance
    Thank you! You’ve learned a very valuable lesson. What happens is, we fall into the trap of trying to improve by fixing whatever seems “broken.” Working on our weaknesses, doesn’t move the ball forward. Working on our strengths is how we change our game. It’s taking your talent and cranking it up. It’s completely on the path of unleashing a best version of yourself.

    I like to think of it as mastery of your best gifts. It’s also a way to bring your best game wherever you go.

    @ Jen

    Thank you! I notice your strengths seem connected to your current path of healing and I think that’s great.

    The strengths are actually whether they are strengths or weaknesses for you. They are independent of the situation. The key is to find how you can use your strengths in any situation or, at least, avoid spending your time in your weaknesses (activities that drain you.)

    If you think of strengths as simply names for your dominant patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing, then it really means it’s a strong pattern in you. Doing the opposite would be a weakness for you.

    So the key is that the strengths are truly yours — they are what’s strong or weak for you. They are not about what’s strong or weak for a given situation or context. It’s how you play your cards.

    @ Cath

    I bet you score high on “ideation.” I sense you thrive on ideas.

    The beauty of knowing your top 5 is they help you figure out where you can maximize your investment. If you’re going to spend time with deliberate practice, it would be good to know where you can get the most bang for the buck.

    @ Juliet

    I know what you mean about being left high and dry. I don’t think turning your strengths into results is that easy or intuitive. It takes time to find your real strengths and put them to use. It’s something you have to work at, and I think it helps to have support to pull it off. I’ve been lucky that my managers have been strengths focused.

    One of the simplest ways I know to leverage your strengths is simply to make sure you start spending more time in your strengths, and less in your weaknesses. For example, I carve out hours to spend in my strengths, and I try to eliminate things that are truly against my grain. For example, I consolidate things that make me weak, into the first hour of my day, when I’m my strongest to get them out of the way. I also add a few hours each week to things that really put my strengths to the test. Just doing this simple exercise has really helped me improve my energy and results.

  6. J.D., this book has started to get me. I think I will have to check my library for this book. I hope I can find it.

    It’s interesting to note that all of us can have shared strengths but will rarely have the same combination. Makes sense … why we can be alike and yet unique.

    Being able to figure out and maximize out 5 key strengths would mean being able to answer the eternal job interview question … Why should we take you and not someone else? What’s so unique about you?

  7. @ Avani

    Great points. I would add that when you find people that share your strengths, it’s similar to sharing values. You can connect well and learn from each other. Many of my mentors share the similar strengths and we push each other.

  8. “Working on our weaknesses, doesn’t move the ball forward”

    I can’t agree with that. Communication was one of my biggest weaknesses. I took a couple of courses on it and it improved significantly. Although it’s still far from my best strengths, I feel much more complete and capable now. Weaknesses can be much more visible than strengths and ruin the otherwise most talented person.

  9. @ Alberto

    To be more precise, I’m fine with limiting your liabilities, which it sounds like that’s what you did. I’ve done the same thing.

    When it comes to investing your time and energy growing your capabilities, then it’s an ROI thing — you can try to turn your weaknesses into strengths or you can turn your natural talents into strengths. One makes the most of what you’ve got, the other works against your grain.

    To put it succinctly, my guideline is – play to your strengths, but limit liabilities. That should punctuate your point.

  10. It does, indeed. 🙂 Another reason I think I want to limit my liabilities is that I find my strengths as part of what I am and what I enjoy, so I cannot simply not cultivate them.

    I’ve found myself quite strong, even if I say so myself. 😀 I can’t eliminate any of these (and had a hard time removing a few others):
    Achiever, Analytical, Belief, Command, Competition, Intellection, Learner, Maximizer, Restorative

  11. Only 5? I get to pick only 5?


    — Arranger
    — Communication
    — Fairness
    — Resonsibility
    — Significance.

    Boy, have I laid my soul out here, or what? It would be interesting to see if my friends and family would pick the same ones for me.

    And you J.D. What are your top 5 strengths?

  12. Hi J.D.
    This is a great post. Great concept!
    I am going to need to take some time and do the work sheet.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  13. @ Jannie

    Yes, it would be interesting to see what your friends and family think.

    When I took the test, my results were:
    – Competition
    – Command
    – Individualization
    – Learner
    – Achiever

    What I expected my top 5 to be:
    – Achiever
    – Arranger
    – Empathy
    – Significance
    – Strategic

    The thing to remember is you might be strong in a lot of things. The key is finding which 5 are top dog. The other key is knowing your weaknesses so that you can spend less time in them, and make more time for your strengths.

    @ Melissa

    The language of strengths is a powerful one. The beauty is we spend time every day doing things that make us strong or make us weak. Now we have a vocabulary and lens to analyze our results.

    @ Giovanna

    Thank you. I’ve been a fan of strengths for a while. Several of my managers were strengths-focused and that helped. Reading the books has been really helpful too, since it gave me a vocabulary and a better understanding of the domain.

  14. hi JD.
    You said something that has resonated with me a lot this last week and it is what I’m currently working on; to avoid spending my time in my weaknesses (activities that drain me.)
    Thank you for your mentorship in this area to those of us who are still redirecting these energies! I’m excited as I build a better future in this moment!! I do not want to get caught up in friction when I can be found in constancy and growth! 🙂
    I also believe that if we can admit our weaknesses, that is great but only if the second step is to ‘move on from them’.. this is maturity, stepping stones toward leadership. I think too often if we stay here, it becomes like quicksand (emotional spiral of downward feelings).
    thanks again! I will continue to follow your helpful posts!

  15. Hi J.D.,

    This is fascinating. As I was reading the post and the comments I was wondering what your answers were. I’m happy Jannie asked.

    When I look at the list (haven’t taken the test), I’d say my 5 are:
    1) Analytical
    2) Developer
    3) Intellection
    4) Learner
    5) Positivity

    I’ve always been analytical, and ironically it’s a trait of Virgos which I am. Although I dabbled in astrology years ago, I question how much truth there is to it. (See, there I go, analyzing) 🙂

  16. @ Jen

    It sounds like you’re on your path and on your way to results.

    Here’s the real secret of why focusing on strengths is so important. It’s energy. Energy is how you get things done. It’s your fuel. It’s your staying power. It’s ultimately how you change your game.

    Growth is a great path and it’s how the good go from good to great. I see it time and again. I know you’re on the right path and you’re in good company 😉

    @ Barbara

    I actually thought you would enjoy this post, precisely because of your intellection 🙂

    I think language is your gift. I think your command of language helps you learn things more deeply and analyze them more effectively.

    Astrology is definitely interesting, but I think it’s one of those areas very prone to “fortune cookie” errors.

  17. JD,
    A young man asked me recently what he should do with his life? W/o any hesitation i answered that he needs to identify his strengths and then proactively develop it and make it even stronger. I sent him this one

    Thank you!

  18. @ Alik

    Nice! It can make such a night and day difference. While I know I learned a lot working on my weaknesses, I know I got more ROI working on my strengths.

  19. Talent related issues have ever grasped my attention, but only now could I find out a coherent and comprehensive theory which I do believe is able to describe facts we’re all surrounded by. Congratulations to the researchers who analyzed so huge database and were able to come up with a good model to explain their observations.

    According to the strengths themes descriptions it seems the most prominent theme in myself is the ‘analytical’, so something got my attention. It is said that there are over 33 millions of possible combinations of 5 signature themes out of those existing 34 ones. However, a 5-combination of 34 objects is 34!/(34-5)!.5! = 278.256, that is, over 278 thousand combinations, not 33 millions.
    In combinations, the order among objects is not important, as is the case with signature themes. In problems where the order plays a role, then you have a k-permutation given by,for instance, 34!(34-5)! > 33 millions. I would like to hear comments on that.

    Best regards.

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