Why Focusing On Your Strengths Is A Leadership Game Changer

A few years ago, I remember stumbling across the concept of taking a strengths focus and for some reason it was quite revolutionary. Essentially a strengths focus is using the strengths that come easily to you rather than focusing on what you are bad at. Rather than thinking about what you are bad at instead thinking of strengths that come easily and strengths that require more effort. Over the last 4 days I’ve been in the USA, meeting with people who work with young people similar to what we do at Burn Bright and the topic of strengths has come up over and over again.  Imagine a future where young people across the world know their strengths and know how they can focus on using them!


As human beings, we naturally default into the deficit mindset. This is where we look at a situation or a problem from the perspective of what is wrong or bad right now. Essentially, we go to the ‘glass half empty’ approach to thinking. Looking at everyday life through a deficit mindset, we approach a situation and only see the negative elements, which often causes us to miss a potential opportunity.

If we constantly operate out of a deficit mindset, it can negatively shape how we view and react to situations, resulting in making us stressed and anxious and prevents us from seeing the joy, happiness or a way forward in situations.

The goal here isn’t for us to be so blindly optimistic that we fail to acknowledge the full spectrum of emotions we feel but more so to reframe our thinking to provide a way of moving forward, to learn from a situation and to develop resilience in the face of adversity.


Knowing and using our strengths is a step in creating a deliberate focus to the positive aspects of who we are and how that impacts upon how we feel and behave – they are part of the picture to living your best life or being your happiest self. The way for us to reframe our thinking out of a deficit mindset is to firstly catch ourselves thinking negatively by being aware of our deficit mindset and secondly to consciously apply our strengths to a situation.

My two top character strengths (according to the VIA Institute) are curiosity and hope. I really see these two strengths come into play when I travel, my ability to use both of these strengths come so naturally to me and I get to explore the world and imagine the possibilities of the future!!

It is one thing to know your strengths but using them is a conscious choice that we can make in any given situation. During my schooling, math and I just did not go well together. I viewed it as something that I was bad at and was never going to improve upon. Imagine if I was able to reframe that thinking and say to myself ‘how can I apply my character strengths of curiosity and hope?’, every time I walked into a math class. I could have adapted my thinking and used my curiosity to explore how my learning math could be related back to the world and combined it with a hope about how we could use mathematics to impact the world around us. Maybe it could have been a totally different outcome to my 8.5/80 grade on my year 10 maths test.  Now as the CEO of Burn Bright the irony is that maths is a significant part of what I do on a daily basis. Thankfully using my character strengths I can reframe the financial mathematics as thinking about how this impacts the future (my hope strength) and how we can find ways to do things more efficiently with more impact (my curiosity strength).


Recently I was having dinner with some friends and the idea of strengths came up and we started to share what each of our strengths were (that’s normal right?) and naturally as humans we started to compare and contrast whose strengths were better than others. It’s funny how programmed we are to go back to that deficit mindset. These friends had strengths in judgement and self-regulation and their thinking instantly went to how their character strengths are boring and that in affect makes them seem boring and mine were so exciting. Again, it was a moment to apply my ‘hope’ to help them see that their strengths are about being their best self and feeling in flow in the situations they find themselves in, not about what is good or bad or right or wrong. For me, I believe both of their character strengths require a lot of work to put into action, but that is the beauty of building that self-awareness.

Just for a second, imagine a team of people where every person had hope and curiosity as their top strengths, we would dream a lot and probably solve the world problems (figuratively) but never get anything done! As leaders, we need to deliberately build teams that have people who have different strengths. Teams in flow are teams where everyone can use the strengths at their best ability and everyone can contribute to the overall team vision. Not only does this help us all to succeed, it also helps us to work on the strengths that don’t come as easily to us and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.


Here are two places where you can work out what your strengths are and learn to proactively apply them to your life.

VIA Character Strengths


Gallop Strengths Finder




Continue your student’s leadership or wellbeing journey with our digital programs. Specifically designed to be flexibly implemented into your wellbeing or leadership programs, these courses can be completed at any time in any place, providing a self-paced option for students to explore in class or on their own. These modules include individual student logins, a teacher dashboard to track student progress and lesson plans with follow up face to face resources.

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I found Burn Bright in the midst of studying civil engineering at the University of Wollongong, just as I wanted a richer, deeper, more full experience of life.

Through Burn Bright, I have met many students and volunteers who are all seeking to find their place in the world. When we come together at NLC or SLC, no matter our age, we begin on the same page, of wanting to do good for ourselves, our community, and the world. And then we are thrown into a program that brings us closer to each other, our purpose, and how to bring forth this impact. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

Volunteering with Burn Bright stoked a fire in me – It helped me feel comfortable in myself and made me realise life isn’t just about work, study, or productivity, but our relationships and how we connect with others along the way.

I have learned skills in videography, worked for a top-tier corporation in marketing, and most recently published a book called “18 and lost? So were we” 

I have a passion for storytelling, bring loads of energy wherever I go, and am dedicated to helping young people move through the initiation of leaving high school and going into the ‘real world’. 

The best part for me is being able to stay connected to the latest generation growing through high school. To see them grow, expand and express more of themselves is like watching an artwork paint itself. It’s magic.

I am Simon Thurston, a Kiwi based in Perth. I work as an Instructional Designer and in my spare time I enjoy reading, running, and board games.

Since my initial connection to Burn Bright I have been onboard with their mission. Burn Bright’s focus on building the capabilities enables students of all ages to see how they can shape their world through connections with others and their own self discovery.

Seeing others grow, learn, and open up is what keeps me coming back, to help others realise their potential and how they can influence their future and their community is a definite highlight. It’s infectious, the atmosphere when they run a program or camp is welcoming, exciting, emotional, and rewarding all in one.



Hi, friends! I’m Kelsie, a psychologist from central QLD working in private practice. I got involved with Burn Bright officially in 2016, but the journey started long before that. I attended the National Leadership Camp (now hosted annually by Burn Bright) in 2009. It had such a profound impact on me that I returned as a mentor and volunteer. Those connections ultimately lead me to joining the Burn Bright team as an adult.

When I transitioned from facilitating with the Burn Bright team to working as a psychologist, I was so grateful for an incredible foundation of skills (particularly facilitation, communication and interpersonal skills) along with a strong grounding in positive psychology that Burn Bright integrates into their ethos.

I can’t imagine my life without volunteering for Burn Bright. I have met some of my dearest friends through the Burn Bright crew. I’ve found that volunteering for BB is rewarding, humbling, and often brings as much personal growth for the volunteer as it does for the young person.

From a professional perspective, I love that Burn Bright programs/camps support the adolescent individuation process by providing an exciting and supportive environment for teens to explore their own sense of self, personality, identify and values alongside other young people.

Imagine this POV: you’re back at school wanting to figure everything out and fit in – and you find
yourself in a room with amazing music that uplifts you and hooks you in. You meet the team of
dynamic, interesting, caring facilitators whose own friendships inspire you. Their facilitation skills bring about amazing light-bulb moments and lessons that light a fire inside you… It makes me want to feel that for myself again. The next best thing, for me, is volunteering for the team who passes that on to other young people.

My start at Burn Bright is one of the best cases of one door closing and another door opening. After losing my job at a local pub while on uni holidays, I started looking for new opportunities that were different and decided to volunteer. Searching for opportunities, I found working bees, community driving and nursing home visits, but the chance to become a National Leadership Camp intern stood out. Over nearly six months, I worked with the team to pull off Burn Bright’s first National Leadership Camp, and had an absolute blast in the process. After camp, I started working for Burn Bright while studying, doing anything and everything — data analysis, hiring strategy and even picking up furniture.

Finishing up working for Burn Bright in 2019, I am still actively involved with the Burn Bright volunteer community. I’ve found that the emphasis placed on investing in your relationships, understanding your values and making an impact allow you to be accepted for you. This has given me the tools needed to make the difficult decisions that life will inevitably throw at you. Besides all that, I’ve had a ton of fun and formed life-long friendships with people I may have never crossed paths with otherwise. “Get involved — you’ll change your life for the better and make life‑long friends in the process”.

I am a health science student from Perth wanting to get into the mental health realm of occupational therapy. In the meantime, I work as a barista and supervisor at a beachside café. In my spare time, I love to play netball, be around my friends and I have just gotten into crocheting. I went to Perth College where I was lucky enough to go to the first Perth College Leadership Camp in 2018 as a student and absolutely loved it. What really drew me in was the atmosphere that was created, the open conversations, and the lasting relationships formed.

Since then I have been a mentor for the Perth College Leadership Camp in 2019, 2020, and 2021 and had the opportunity to go to the National Leadership Camp in 2019. When Burn Bright comes to Perth I also love helping out at their programs as much as I can.

Volunteering for Burn Bright has given me so much that I could never have imagined. I have learned so much about myself and I have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities that I know I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t exposed to the amazing opportunities volunteering for Burn Bright has given me. Before being involved I would never have seen myself being a mentor, role model, and facilitator to students, but now I can confidently say that I am, and I have made an impact on others that I am proud of. I have also made so many meaningful connections to so many amazing people from all around Australia through Burn Bright. I get asked quite a bit why I keep coming back to my old school to volunteer and it’s simply because I was given this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Burn Bright programs and if I can help facilitate that experience to someone else then why wouldn’t I?

I was born in Perth and moved to Sydney in my early 20’s to continue work as a youth worker and surfboard maker. This was followed by 30 years working in IT as a computer programmer.

Following retirement in 2016 I searched for an organisation that was aligned with my values of servant leadership and service, especially in the youth space. This search led to Burn Bright where I am now volunteering one day a week and mentoring at the National Leadership Camp. Volunteering with Burn Bright gives me a great deal of hope and confidence in the next generation of leaders. It is a pleasure to be a part of the Burn Bright family.

I have been married to Denise for 41 years and we both very much feel part of the Burn Bright team.

When not at Burn Bright you may find me running along Manly beach, riding my mountain bike or indulging in my passion for photography.











Hi! I’m Rosie, a 20-something full-time public servant, part-time Tassie tourism advocate.

I am passionate about seeing young people succeed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching them become the next generation of change-makers.

I have been a champion of the ethos and work of Burn Bright since its inception in 2014, and consider them to be the leading experts in their field. By delivering impactful leadership and wellbeing programs to students across Australia, they offer the knowledge, skills and engagement to invoke lasting positive change in school communities.

The Burn Bright team are dedicated, inclusive and values-driven, which is why I love working with them.