Don’t Let Your Strengths Become Your Weaknesses
Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Gill Corkindale for the Harvard Business Blog:
One of the first things I ask my new clients to do is write down three of their key strengths and three of their flaws. Typically, strengths might be attention to detail, focus, and drive; flaws can be delegation, lack of creativity, and people-management skills. I then ask clients to look carefully at what they have written. Often, they will stare at the paper and then at me. They will ask me to explain. Rarely do they see the connection.
The fact is that our flaws are often the mirror image of our strengths, and it’s important to realize that we should not over-develop our strengths, causing them to turn into flaws. There is always an optimal point: confidence that doesn’t border on arrogance, wit that doesn’t slide into sarcasm, and diligence that doesn’t become perfectionism. I have observedmany leaders who have fallen into the strengths/weaknesses trap. Having been praised and rewarded for demonstrating particular strengths throughout their careers, they become blind to the shadow sides of these strengths. Often, this blind spot can derail a career.
I was therefore very interested to read about some new research that delves into leaders’ dark sides. The researchers interviewed 18,000 U.K. leaders over a decade (1999 to 2009) to discover what derailed them under pressure. They identified 11 derailers — strengths which turned into flaws under pressure. These include shrewd-mistrustful; charming-manipulative; vivacious-dramatic; and diligent-perfectionist. These “Dark Side Characteristics” were present in 85 percent of the leaders surveyed, with 16 percent having three dark-side characteristics.
Interestingly, the most common dark side characteristic in the U.K. is dutiful-dependent, that is being too appeasing and accommodating when under pressure. Additionally, a quarter of U.K. leaders also tended to withdraw from difficult situations and become remote.
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To read the complete article and check out others as well as to sign up for a free subscription to the Harvard Business Blog, please visit http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/corkindale/2009/10/dont_let_your_strength_become.html?cm_re=homepage-061609-_-lede-_-headline.
Gill Corkindale is an executive coach and writer based in London. She works with managers and leaders from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East to develop strategies for business effectiveness and personal change. Formerly management editor of the Financial Times, she uses her journalistic skills and business insights to bring a new perspective on global management and leadership.
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