Leadership Strengths vs. Weaknesses: The Silly Debate

Please Decide

Which one do you choose to do: Focus on Strengths, or Focus on Weaknesses?

…And while you’re at it, answer this: Does the curious and ongoing debate about strengths and weaknesses in the field of leadership puzzle you?

Crazy Debate

Focus on StrengthsThe debate asks whether it is better to increase your strengths or better to reduce your weaknesses.

What I would really like to know is who raised the issue in the first place? As if there were an issue, as if there were an answer.

The question, a priori, is an unanswerable question, a false dichotomy, and a ridiculous polemic.

It depends on who you are and what strengths and weaknesses you have. In the absence of a particular leader and situation, the debate is meaningless.

Hurd Mentality

To understand this better, take the case of the recently ousted CEO of HP, Mark Hurd. His ethical wrong-doing was the poison-tipped dagger that brought his career at HP to an ignominious end.

Had he neutralized his weakness, he would still be the CEO, and still able to apply his considerable talents to the task of moving HP, the planet’s largest computer maker, forward on its growth path.

No amount of strength-building would have atoned for his misconduct and breach of fiduciary trust.

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Learn Leveraging Leadership Strengths and Struggles

Leveraging Leadership Strengths & Struggles

Sorry, Carly…

Carly FiorinaOn the other hand, take his predecessor, Carly Fiorina. She was not able to engage and mobilize the organization and the board, and maintain their support for her major initiatives.

Since her departure, her strategy has been vindicated in part, but she was not able to summon the institutional will of the enterprise and its stakeholders to execute the strategy to completion.

Apparently, she didn’t have the execution and communication skills that Mr. Hurd has in abundance. It is therefore possible that she might still be at the helm had she the operating prowess of her successor.

She had strengths, but perhaps those strengths needed strengthening.

Balancing Act

If you have serious weaknesses that threaten to end your career as a leader and jeopardize the people and the organization you are leading, your priority is to attend to them immediately. On the other hand, if you have strengths that you can build on to increase your effectiveness and results as a leader, attend to these as well.

So let me ask: Should I feed my strengths or starve my weaknesses?

Answer: Yes.

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Timothy R. Clark
, Ph.D., is president of management consulting firm, TRCLARK.
He helps in strategy, organizational transformation, and leadership development.
Email | LinkedIn | Web | The Leadership Test Book

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Timothy,
    At first I was taken aback by your opening paragraphs. You see, my work is very strengths-based. We know for neuroscience that trying to “fix weaknesses” rarely produces lasting results. Thankfully, I read on and I loved what you said about “neutralizing weaknesses.” Now that completely consistent with what science is showing us. By using your strengths to neutralize weaknesses (eliminating their negative impact) you engage the mechanics of neuroplasticity and strength-based deliberate practice to actually create measurable synaptic changes in the brain. Pretending your weaknesses don’t exist only serves to strengthen their grip. Compensating for them also strengthen their grip over the long haul. If you are in crisis situation, by all means compensate to minimize the damage. But if you want to create meaningful, lasting growth, you have to learn how to use your strengths to render your weaknesses powerless over your choices and actions.

  2. One other comment, Timothy.. way the shake up people’s thinking. Good work!

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