Don Clifton

don clifton

Don Clifton (1924–2003), was a psychologist, educator, entrepreneur, and thought leader. Clifton received a Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II and he taught at the University of Nebraska (1950–1969).

Clifton is the inventor of CliftonStrengths, the culmination of more than 50 years of Don Clifton’s lifelong work, which has led to more than 15 million people worldwide discovering their strengths.

In 2002 the American Psychological Association (APA) honored Clifton with a presidential commendation for his lifetime achievements as “the father of strengths-based psychology.”

The APA said Clifton is remembered for his unusual ability to bring out the best in people and help individuals and organizations achieve outstanding result.

Jim Clifton, CEO and chairman of Gallup, explained what it was like to grow up in Don Clifton's house:

As a child, I remember Dad had an interesting angle on everything: He would see someone selling rocks and say, “Let’s go see what is on this guy’s mind.” I would say, “He’s just selling rocks.” But he was interested in the individual.

He was always doing experiments with groups. Fifty-five years ago, he was working with mentors and poor people. He was ahead of his time. 

He would start a group with high school kids, dead-enders, high achievers, and others, then put us into those groups. I thought everybody was doing that. I had no idea that I was one of his lab rats.

Dad spent his whole life figuring out people’s strengths. He taught his entire life.

He said weaknesses never really develop, and strengths develop your whole life. Yet most institutions have us trying to fix our weaknesses. That is why humankind is not developing as fast as it should.