How to Magnify the Impact of Your Strengths

“A man should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The man who always knows what people cannot do, but never sees what they can do, will undermine the spirit of the organization,” Peter Drucker.

John Zenger, co-author of the HBR article, Making Yourself Indispensible, told me that strengthening strengths is like pushing a wheel while it’s going downhill.


John said, “Fatal flaws overpower strengths. If you have one, you must fix it.”

Four ways to choose what to improve:

After fixing fatal flaws, John explained the way to choose what to improve. First, identify your strengths and then choose leadership skills that:

  1. Complement your strength. (More on that in a minute)
  2. Provide balance.
  3. You are passionate about.
  4. Meet organizational needs.

Improving strengths:

Doing the same thing over and over improves skills to a point. For example, repeatedly shooting foul shouts or kicking goals yields improvement at the beginning. Eventually, improvement slows and more of the same doesn’t improve skills; at best it maintains.

John said cross-training is the way to improve something you are reasonably good at. For example, a good speaker can improve their strength by taking an acting or improvisation class. (Thanks Wally Bock for that idea.)

The golden nugget:

John identifies skills that magnify strengths. Make Yourself Indispensible, identifies 16 core competencies along with complimentary behaviors. For example, complimentary skills for leaders who focus on results include:

  1. Organization and planning
  2. Honesty and integrity
  3. Anticipating problems
  4. Seeing desired results clearly
  5. Providing effective feedback and development
  6. Establishing stretch goals
  7. Personal accountability
  8. Quick to act
  9. Providing rewards and recognition
  10. Creating high-performance teams
  11. Marshals adequate resources
  12. Innovation

Strengthen weaknesses within your strengths.

How can leaders make their own strengths and the strengths of others better?


About John Zenger:

Website: Zenger|Folkman

Twitter: @zengerfolkman

*You can read the entire HBR article without charge if you register on the HBR site.


Part one of my conversation with John Zenger: “16 Competencies Guaranteed to Deliver Results