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 general concept of dividing characteristics into “strengths” and “weaknesses” might be too simple. To handle the challenges that come your way, you need to read and respond adeptly by being conscious of your dialogue partners and being aware of the present situation.
Strengths can become weaknesses when overused
When it comes to personal development, there are two strategies: either you work on specific 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’s 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 that the more serious the strength, the more significant the risk 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 personalities to contribute?
Adjusting your leadership volume: be aware of yourself and the situation
Influential speakers know how to modulate their voices, so the volume is neither too high nor too low. Similarly, effective leadership requires the ability to fine-tune the managerial attributes 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 a volume control analogy. 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 or how high to set the goals. All of this requires knowing your strengths and having a strong sense of your counterpart and the context.
Redirecting your strengths by asking for feedback
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 straightforward, yet practical approach. Have a conversation with people who trust, asking them the following three questions:
- What should I do more of?
- What should I do less of?
- What should I continue doing?
This conversation can be with co-workers, employees, peers, a good friend, or your spouse. Listen attentively to their answers and ask for examples and details if necessary. Additionally, you might list the qualities you most want to display as a leader and go through them with your dialogue partner. Are you overdoing any of them? That’s a tough question to ask for feedback, but it forces you to think in a new way and challenge some of your assumptions about leadership and your abilities. I am positive you will be highly rewarded!
If you would like to reflect on these or other questions with a sparring partner, please get in touch.