by Greg Johnson
“Any strength taken to its extreme is a weakness.” ~ Author Unknown
I love to compete. In everything. All the time. Everything is a game – a puzzle to be solved, a time to beat, a riddle to be solved. I don’t need you in order to compete. I do fine all by myself. How long did it take me to get ready this morning? What is the fastest route to and from the office? Do I weigh less today than I did yesterday? Do I remember Tony Romo’s stats from last Wednesday night? (22 of 29 for 307 yards and 3 TDs, 1 INT, in case you were wondering). Now, I’m not the angry competitor, always agitated, but everything is a game with a win/lose proposition. Here is a question: Is my competitiveness, playful or otherwise, a strength or a weakness? And the answer is…YES.
Most of us don’t immediately think of strength and weakness as related. We often think of our weaknesses as things that cause us the greatest challenges in life. However, when overused, your greatest strength will likely cause the most friction between you and others. Think of it like salt. You know, too much of a good thing…
As leaders, we must see that overuse of our greatest skill can hurt the organization. Here are some examples (And for all you insecure leaders, I wasn’t thinking of your name specifically… as far as you know):
- The results-oriented leader who pushes people so hard toward results, and everyone around him gets burned because he is never satisfied, always frustrated.
- The empathetic leader who consistently misses deadlines because he is too busy counseling others.
- The intelligent leader that can come across rude, arrogant and aloof.
- The visionary leader that spends all of his time casting vision and none of his time developing a plan to actually accomplish it.
- The creative leader that is so abstract that he can never be nailed down on detail or deadline.
- The analytical leader that spends so much time looking at a problem from every angle that he can’t make a decision.
All of these strengths are characteristics that are widely considered important in a great leader. But, look at the weakness in every situation and its effect on the people you are leading when taken to its extreme:
STRENGTH RESULT EFFECT ON TEAM
Results-oriented -> never satisfied -> low morale
Intellectual pontificating -> arrogant & aloof -> intimidated, no input
All vision, all the time -> no action plan -> confused, frustrated
Creative, creative, creative -> abstract, no detail -> disorganized, low functioning
Analytical -> indecisiveness -> insecurity
Empathetic -> no boundaries -> dramatic, low functioning
Identify your strengths. It is paramount every leader identify his greatest strengths. There is something refreshing about a leader who is self-aware. To that end, here are two ways to clarify what your strengths are. First, there are several tests out there to help you in that process, and they tend to be pretty accurate as long as you are honest in your responses. Don’t go into the test with a certain outcome in mind, as it may skew the way you take the test. Second, ask those you trust to help you in the process of understanding your strengths. Again, be open to the idea that what you perceive to be your greatest strength may not be what others see.
Evaluate how your strengths are being used. Again, you can’t do this alone. You likely have a blind spot where you are using your strength in excess. Just get this concept in your head – you are not the perfect leader. You still have growing to do. We ALL do. Let the people that work with you the most speak into your life. This is where most leaders fall short. Openness, teachability and humility will be required in this process. And, defensiveness, minimization or excuses will surely subvert the process of getting to the real you.
Develop complimentary strengths. This is just another way of looking at it. You don’t want to minimize where you excel, but build in some other skills that you can complement your strengths. For instance, if you tend to be results-oriented, make sure you are developing the skill of affirmation. Learning to affirm and celebrate (yes, celebrate) every win with your team can help temper your drive for results. If you are intellectual, develop the skill of listening. You’ll be surprised at how valued people feel when they feel that their opinion matters. And who knows? You could actually learn something in the process.
Practice makes perfect. Look for opportunities to practice your complimentary strengths. If you are more people skill oriented (listening, empowering, compassion, affirmation), practice complimentary power skills (results orientation, decisiveness, authoritative accountability), and vice versa. Combining these skills over time will help you become a high-capacity leader.
Finally, but foundationally, remember the words of the apostle Paul:
God said to me, “My graceis sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
At the end of the day, Jesus has to be at the center of it all. He will shore up your weaknesses and temper your strengths through a rich daily, committed relationship with him. He made you the way you are for one reason: to join HIM in HIS plan for the world. So, let’s be the best leaders we can be, for the glory of the one who made us!
And, I guessed I could write this in 1000 words or less… 965! Winner!