Do you have as many weaknesses as strengths? Most great leaders do.

 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?

It is rare that someone in a leadership role comes up with a list that is longer on the weakness column. Absent a few exceptions out there, it is hardly the case that people are so lacking. Points off for either false modesty or self-flagellation. You have more going for you than that and you know it.

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.


About paulheagen

I am an executive coach, advisor and confidant who helps leaders better understand, refresh or redirect their purpose in their business and personal lives. Over my 35-year career as a corporate executive, communications consultant and trusted advisor, I have guided executives through “defining moments” – those unique times when the decisions they make, the words they speak, and the qualities they exhibit can influence not only the destiny of their organization but also their own lives and careers. When it comes to my clients and my life work, I am ferociously passionate and restlessly inquisitive about uncovering the unique dreams, vision and purpose that lead to exceptional leadership.
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