Take a piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the left, list what you feel are your strengths as a leader. Easy, right? Now, on the right, list what you know to be your weaknesses. Are the columns about even, or lop-sided?
What about if your page shows a longer list of strengths? Could be true, but how do you really know? I sometimes see executives recount their strengths with relish, but only reluctantly list a very few weaknesses, as if they feel they need to have more strengths than weaknesses to be seen as good leaders. Even worse, some “weaknesses” they list are a bit forced or even that are disingenuous: “I sometimes underestimate my real talent…” (okay, sigh) Points off for self-awareness or transparency.
I find fairly consistently that the good leaders have a pretty balanced list. Why? Because we all have that same balance as human beings. The fact is we face different situations that draw out or reveal our qualities, good or bad. Too often, we fight our weaknesses, either by denying them or trying to overcompensate for them, or think that some monumental force of nature will transform them into strengths. What separates the good from the great leaders is that they accept the weaknesses as being just as valuable and present as their strengths. Despite our most heroic efforts, we will always have weaknesses.
Openly embracing our weaknesses keeps us humble. It keeps us in touch with others. It ensures we value the balance that others bring. And it reminds us that learning should never stop.
Our failings are not our enemy. They can be the more reliable measure of our willingness and capacity to learn.