Ed Barrows
Practical thinking about becoming a better leader


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Develop Your Strengths or Work on Your Weaknesses. Which One?

Peter Drucker the famous management theorist was perhaps the first thinker to suggest that to be optimally effective leaders need to focus on developing their strengths while side stepping their weaknesses. Despite making this statement over half a century ago, many leaders don’t follow his advice. Are these managers stubborn? Are they irrational?  Or could it be that there is some logic to the practice of improving one’s weaknesses as opposed to focusing solely on strengths?  I was asked this question recently while providing feedback to a group of senior leaders on their 360 assessments. The question (and the widespread behavior) started me thinking about the wisdom of strengths-based advice in general. Could it be wrong or at least incomplete?  Turns out, yes. According to research by Jack Zenger of leadership development firm Zenger Folkman, in some cases working on weaknesses is more important that developing strengths—especially if those weaknesses represent fatal flaws that stymie a leader’s effectiveness. In his words, “if you possess a profound weakness then work on that. Working on strengths is relatively futile until that is rectified. Once the serious weakness is corrected, instantly begin to work on developing strengths. It is the presence of a handful of strengths that will make you the strong leader your organization needs.”  This finding seems sensible especially when a leader’s weaknesses—such as poor communication or behavioral inconsistency—are so pronounced that leaving them unaddressed causes negative consequences among those being led.  So if you are a leader that has significant challenges affecting your performance, address those before attending to strengths.  You and your colleagues will likely be glad you did.  http://leadership.zengerfolkman.com/acton/attachment/10129/f-0498/1/-/-/-/-/White%20Paper%3A%20Developing%20Strengths%20or%20Weaknesses.pdf #leaders #leadership #coaching

Ed Barrows