Lopsided Leadership: When Strengths Fail

Lopsided Leadership-When Strengths FailIn the last decade, leadership development experts have enthusiastically pushed to improve their clients’ strengths instead of addressing their weaknesses. This approach may have some success in growing individuals’ effectiveness, but it’s fundamentally flawed.

Strengths training and coaching have somewhat of a cult-like following among HR and coaching professionals. Leaders are encouraged to develop their unique strengths and focus on fortifying areas in which they’re naturally talented.

Amazon sells almost 8,000 books on the subject, including several bestsellers published by Gallup, whose StrengthsFinder assessment tool is now used by 1.6 million employees every year and 467 Fortune 500 companies.

In some companies, even the word “weakness” has become politically incorrect. Staff is instead described as having strengths and “opportunities for growth” or “challenges.”

It’s easy to see why concentrating on leadership strengths is popular. It’s more enjoyable to hone in on innate strengths and avoid discussing weaknesses. But when strengths-oriented programs emphasize a single leadership area, they bypass others—usually to a manager’s detriment.

“We’ve seen virtually every strength taken too far: confidence to the point of hubris, and humility to the point of diminishing oneself. We’ve seen vision drift into aimless dreaming, and focus narrow down to tunnel vision. Show us a strength and we’ll give you an example where its overuse has compromised performance and probably even derailed a career.”—Robert B. Kaiser and Robert E. Kaplan, “Don’t Let Your Strengths Become Your Weaknesses,” Harvard Business Review, April 04, 2013

This article examines lopsided leadership when strengths are overused and create problems, and how to moderate and fine-tune strengths to become balanced and more versatile as a leader. 

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The complete article includes these important concepts:

  • Too Much of a Good Thing
  • Career Derailment
  • Lopsided Leadership
  • Leadership Dualities
  • Goldilocks Leadership

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