One way leaders might get themselves into trouble is by overdoing it - doing too much of a good thing; whether that be talking too much, pushing too hard, delegating too much authority or getting too caught up in the details. That's how strengths if taken too far, become weaknesses. Therefore, the concept of dividing qualities into "strengths" and "weaknesses" might be too simple. To handle the challenges that come your way, you must be able to read and respond adeptly by being aware of yourself and being aware of the situation.
Strengths can become weaknesses when overused
When it comes to personal development, there are basically two strategies: either you work on certain weaknesses trying hard to overcome flaws. Or you focus on discovering and capitalizing on your strengths, assuming that they are aligned with some organizational need. The second one seems to be a reasonable approach that emerged as a response to an unhealthy fixation on weaknesses. However, as it turns out, you can take strengths too far! Just imagine a gifted operational director whose relentless focus on results leads to hyper control. Or someone who drives hard for results but neglects the people side. You might consider making yourself heard and being direct as a strength. But what if you are unaware that people find you overly aggressive?
Thus, dividing qualities into "strengths" and "weaknesses" implicitly ignores strengths overdone. The key lesson here is: 'more is not always better'. As a coach I would consider it neglectful to emphasize strengths without reflecting on the fact that the stronger the strength, the greater the danger of taking it too far. That's why the leader's challenge is to balance the two dualities. For example, can you take the lead and make room for other people to contribute?
Fine-tuning your strengths in a given situation
Consequently, it is a prerequisite to fine-tune how you use your strengths in a given situation. Fine-tuning is an art that requires a blend of both self-awareness and situational awareness. In my Leadership Coachings I find it helpful for my clients to use the analogy of a volume control. The trick is to get the setting just right for the situation: knowing how much passion to put in a speech, how seriously to stress a concern, how long to let a discussion go on, how deep to get into the details. All of this requires knowing your own strength and having a sense about your counterpart and the context.
A simple yet effective starting-point
Overusing strengths is mostly subconscious which makes it hard to address in a practical sense. Now that you have realized why overdoing a strength can get you into trouble, how you can save you from yourself? I suggest a very simple, yet effective approach. Have a conversation with people who trust, asking them the following 3 questions:
- WHAT SHOULD I DO MORE OF?
- WHAT SHOULD I DO LESS OF?
- WHAT SHOULD I CONTINUE DOING?
Listen carefully to their answers. This conversation can be with co-workers, employees, peers, a good friend or your spouse. Additionally, you might make a list of the qualities you most want to have a leader and going through them with your dialogue partner. Are you overdoing any of them? That's a tough question to ask feedback for, but it forces you to think in a new way and to challenge some of your assumptions about leadership and your abilities. I am positive you will be highly rewarded! In case of any further interest, please do not hesitate to get in touch.