Many leaders fear they’ll lose their edge if they stop leading with their leadership strengths. They must instead learn to use a strength more selectively.
This may be the hardest developmental work one can begin. Behavioral changes are a demanding goal, and it’s even harder to change or modulate what you’ve always done especially when that made you successful. It often requires that you trace your leadership behavior back to the faulty thinking that led you to form false assumptions. This doesn’t mean you have to go into therapy. You can work with an executive coach to realign your leadership strengths.
Dualities of Lopsided Leadership
All managers, regardless of level, are likely to overuse some strengths. Doing so not only corrupts these strengths, but creates specific weaknesses. If you believe your strengths are the only way to manage people, you’ll ignore equal, but opposing, strengths. This leads to lopsided leadership, Kaiser and Kaplan explain in Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013).
Most leaders are familiar with the concept of skill sets coming in pairs. Multiple assessment tools classify people’s preferences as either “task-oriented” vs. “people-oriented,” “big picture” vs. “detail-oriented” or “analytic” vs. “intuitive.”
Our preferences are usually unconscious, reflecting our experiences and innate qualities. We’ve learned to define ourselves as one thing and not the other. Over the course of our careers, one strength grows while the other decays.
For example, let’s look at the positive and negative characteristics of four personality traits, as explored by Drs. Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner in Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (McGraw-Hill Education, 2002):
Can you identify your boss on this chart? What about yourself?
Do you see that working on new strengths will powerfully impact the effectiveness of your leadership. Being an individual contributor is very different than being a leader.
Becoming an effective leader is the hardest work you will ever do. But it is also the most rewarding for those that want to take on the challenge.