Monday, June 3, 2013

What is a Weakness?

Most organizations have a standard list of competencies that they expect leaders to have.  Every book on leadership will list the competencies that the author feels are critical to success.  Yet every successful leader has had their own strengths and weaknesses.  So how do you develop yourself for leadership success?

Divide your list of competencies up into three categories: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Career Derailers. We know that you want to maximize and develop your strengths and fix any career derailers.  But what about the weaknesses?

If they are completely unrelated to the job you have now or want to have next, you can pass on focusing on them, for now.  But when you are ready to round out your portfolio, I suggest you start with cultivating and developing (and listening to) those who have strengths in the areas you are weak.  Yes, you could spend hours learning a new skill.  And if it is important to future success, you probably should have a working knowledge.  However, by developing and listening to someone who has that as a strength, you learn from them while they learn from you.  You also avoid the common mistake of setting up a straw man argument to easily disregard that which you don't truly understand.  This requires a great amount of trust on your part so the harder you work to develop good people the stronger your portfolio will be.

If you constantly develop and listen to people who are just like you, you are just hearing echoes of your own thoughts.  By developing and listening to people who are not like you, you are closing the gaps in your team's ability to perform.  Think about it from this perspective, if you were a pitcher turned coach, would you hire only pitchers because you know how important they are?  Ditto on the violin player turned conductor.  Every true team leader knows you need to have your bases covered and all the instruments in the orchestra to truly succeed.

So what is a weakness?  It is simply a gap you need to fill.  Not necessarily by your own study, but by a recognition of the value of the perspective and the cultivation of those with that strength.

What gaps do you need to fill?  Who do you know with strengths in that area?