Strengths and Weaknesses

Another way of looking at traits is to see them as strengths and weaknesses. Instead of using the typical “good” and “bad” approach that you might see in Sunday school, think of strengths and weaknesses as they relate to leadership. A strength is anything that helps advance efforts toward your goal and supports your guiding principle, and a weakness is anything that hinders what you are trying to accomplish.

For a good example of how something can be good and bad, depending on who is making the judgment, consider individuality. It's prized in the United States as a foundation of our society, and we celebrate those who cut their own paths. Yet the same behavior in parts of Asia might be considered inexcusably rude.

A New Approach to Value

The concepts of good and bad are a mix of morality, cultural mores, and presumptions. For example, many women have been taught early on to accept whatever they were given and not to demand anything. Many men were brought up learning not to ask for help and not to pay attention to their emotions. Society held up those values as desirable — that is, as good.

However, neither value is particularly helpful for leaders; in fact, it is their opposites that are actually of value. What you must do is see your traits in the light of their usefulness. Passion, creativity, and self-discipline are not ends in themselves, but they are important in relation to your goals.

Don't Rely on Strengths

People normally assume that working from their strengths is the best thing to do. It can be — at the right times and in the right place. However, there's such a thing as relying too much on strength. You tend to do all things and solve all problems the same way because you approach everything from those same strengths.

An analogy would be a person building a house who was comfortable with a circular saw but not a jig saw. That circular saw is just the thing for cutting wood in framing the building, but it lacks the flexibility to make an intricate cut to fit a piece of trim against plaster molding. What the builder then needs is a jig saw, which can make sharp turns. The would-be carpenter had better gain a new skill to get that part of the job done.

Don't be satisfied with the strengths you've always had. Keep expanding your horizons. Sometimes you can do that with your selection of team members, but also look for opportunities to grow your own abilities.

Don't Ignore Weaknesses

Just as strengths are not straightforward, neither are weaknesses. Most people ignore their weaknesses when they focus on their strengths. This is a bad idea for two reasons.

One reason to keep an eye on your weaknesses is to keep them from gaining control when you aren't looking. That's the problem with a weakness; it keeps tripping you up. If you knew when and how it was going to act, you could do something about that, but you don't.

Another reason is that you can actually strengthen your areas of weakness. Think of a new skill you picked up. Was it easy? Probably not. Unless you were a born natural, you had to spend time learning and practicing. Guess what — you indulged in the process of strengthening what was a weakness. Do that regularly. You develop more muscle to get things done, and you also create a better understanding of others who may share the same problem. That will only make for an improved team.

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