Leadership: Play to your Strengths, Forget your Weaknesses

Feb 12

Weaknesses feel so much more visible than strengths to many people. In the consideration of leadership, there is a tendency to allow focus to dwell on correcting flaws rather than developing strengths. Recent research indicates that weaknesses may not be holding leaders back as much as previously thought. With the exception of what Zenger and Folkman call “fatal flaws”, much more potential improvement is available to those leaders who focus on strengths.

Strengths represent opportunity for leaders. Whether a leader invests in his strengths should be viewed opportunity cost. A focus on trying to fix weaknesses may cost a leader a great deal of growth opportunity. Time frame is helpful in identifying both whether to focus on a strength or a weakness and which strengths to focus on. Cultural tendency is to set new year’s resolutions. However, that time frame may be too short when considering personal development. Questions about who the leader wants to be in five to ten years from now may bring more clarity and perspective.

Another benefit associated with a focus on strengths development is increased engagement and retention. Strengths building can be very rewarding and can improve outcomes in immediate ways. Immediate rewards increase engagement and satisfaction, and in some cases can diminish the negative aspects of weaknesses.

When it comes to leadership, there’s a lot more value in playing to personal strengths than dwelling on weaknesses, as long as the leader stays in touch with his weaknesses so they don’t become critical flaws.

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