The Most Dangerous Leadership Weakness
Dangerous leadership weaknesses include:
- Lack of self-awareness.
- Listening to brown nosers.
- Pointing out problems without celebrating progress.
- Closed ears and opened mouths.
- People pleasing.
All strengths have corresponding weaknesses. Good with people often means bad organizational skills, for example.
The law of equilibrium: Extraordinary always includes extra-lousy.
The better you are in on area, the more you suck in another. People with average talent have average weaknesses; extraordinary talent has extraordinary weakness.
The more able in one area – the more unable in another.
Embrace weakness like you exalt strengths. Until you do, you’re dangerous.
The most dangerous leaders believe they can when they can’t. Put gently, its ego; bluntly, its arrogance. Additionally, egotistical leaders justify weaknesses with strengths. “I’m getting results so chill out,” they say.
People who think they can, when they can’t, don’t listen. You can’t teach someone who already knows. Leaders who justify weaknesses, don’t care about their weaknesses.
Nothing short of a butt kicking gets through. But, kick an arrogant person and they kick back. When they have power, it’s dangerous.
There’s no hope until the door to frailty, weakness, and inability swings open. Only you can open that door.
You can’t move forward until you know you fall short.
The real issue is you aren’t wrong and can’t be weak, at least that’s what you think.
Solutions begin with you.
In your head start saying, “I could be wrong.” If you prefer, ask, “What if I’m wrong?”
Keep moving forward but include self-questioning on the way.
After you get comfortable with saying, “I could be wrong,” start saying, “They could be right.” Or, ask yourself, “What if they are right?”
Leaders and organizations grow stronger when they acknowledge and deal with weaknesses.
How can leaders become better at knowing their weaknesses?
What advantages come to leaders who embrace their weaknesses?
Whoa, very profound, Dan. I realize that there are a lot of people who don’t realize their own weaknesses or they overestimate themselves (which isn’t always bad.) This makes me wonder if there’s anything about myself that I am missing.
Honestly, I think there are many things that I subconsciously miss and deny. I do embrace the weaknesses I’m aware of and use them to my advantage. Either that, or I work to improve them. I know it’s common for people to advise ignoring our weaknesses and emphasize our strengths, but I believe in working on our weaknesses just as much. The hard part is identifying them.
I’m a big fan of the strength-based leadership movement. I don’t think it means ignoring our weaknesses. I think it means minimizing, compensating, and where they are detrimental, developing them.
The fact that you are wondering if you do this is hopeful and healthy. People who don’t wonder about this problem have bigger problems.
I agree Vincent. Sometimes over-estimating ourselves enables us to stretch for bigger goals, rather than be held back by fear of failure.
Interesting balance dance between over-estimating and arrogance… hmmm?
The best way to become better at knowing your weaknesses is to keep people close to you who will be honest, and more importantly that you will listen to. If you cannot listen or hear, you will not learn or grow.
Embracing your weaknesses is actually freeing. You are sure of yourself, you know what you do well / and what you don’t, and you can let go enough to let other people shine.
I definitely agree, Martina. I always tell my close friends I value brutal honesty and I need for them to be honest so I can grow. Most people are rather hesitant because they don’t want to hurt feelings.
Once again your experience and insight shine.
If we have people around us who tell us the truth, we are most fortunate, as long as we listen.
Love that you add the freeing part… beautiful. I’ll add another word…it’s less stressful.
Quite right Martina.
Acknowledging what you’re not good at, and recognising that for someone else it’s a strength, enables you to utilise the power of the team.
Some of the most seemingly arrogant people are perhaps the most insecure. It takes courage to say, “You’re right, I’m wrong”. And yes, there are some people who consider that courage a sign of weakness, but I believe most people respect the courage that comes with honesty.
I had less of a problem saying I’m wrong when I was younger. Now, sadly, I understand the games people play to make others look bad and I fall into the trap of needing to appear like I have it together. I thought I’d get over this issue, but I haven’t.
Hi Dan, that’s an extraordinary insight that the greater your strengths in one area, the more profound your weaknesses in other areas. Thanks for all you do to help us be better leaders.
You always seem to grab a key point. Thanks for being an insightful, encourager.
Self-questioning (not to be confused with self-doubt) is something I really agree with, Dan.
I remember as a kid thinking “what if we’re the bad guys” when i was watching news reports about a war. It is something I always keep in mind when going to new places either physically or businesswise. How is what I do, what i say, what I think and what I believe perceived by those my words or behaviour will have an impact on? Am I doing the right thing?
If a strong leader doesn’t ask these questions of himself, there is a chance no one else close to him will ask them and that can lead to dangerous or disastrous outcomes.
Glad you noticed the use of questioning vs. doubt. I tossed the two terms around and landed on questioning. Perhaps we could say, never doubt that you have weaknesses. Always question yourself, your perceptions, your team.
Seems like the Peter Principle popping up again, and in the most dangerous of territories – leadership. The good question is how can the people who don’t “get” that they don’t “get” critical skills be identified before-hand, when the people above them doing the evaluations have probably also risen to their own Peter Principle level in leadership?
Hi Jim, this one is called the Dunning-Kruger effect!
For Dunning-Kruger: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect
How do you tell someone something that can’t hear? It is a critical question.
You talkin’ to me…you talkin’ to me!? –Travis Bickle (and we all know how that one ended…
We all know one or more people like this.
I worked with someone quote recently who has it bad.
But, I learned to realise that, although he is weak in areas he thinks are strengths, he is strong at other things.
I learned a lesson from this about sometimes you have to actively seek out strengths in others, they aren’t always immediately apparent.
This reminds me of the book “Why You Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be” by Arthur F. Miller and William Hendricks. Ignoring real limitations sets us up for failure and the wasted energy of trying to be something/someone we are not. Learning to be honest about our weak areas and confident in our strengths is a significant part of leading well.
Powerful comment! You tap our need to matter and our fear of wasting time and energy. Very motivational.
Huge insight and wisdom, Dan.
Interesting how someone else can’t fix this problem, it has to come from within. I suppose that’s true for just about everything anyway.
I guess that’s why we need to always be curious.
Nurture curiosity! kapow!
Hi Dan, Inspiring, really! I love it when you say “There’s no hope until the door to frailty, weakness, and inability swings open. Only you can open that door”. Thank You!
And thank you.
The Twelve Steps
Step One We admitted we were powerless over xxxxxxx and our lives were unmanageable. Put what is ailing you in the xxxxx box and continue!
Ok listen up….short version. I can’t!
Second step version. He can!
Third Step. Short version I think I will let him.
Now if you want to choose to life a life on self propulsion have at it!
A spiritual base and I did not say religious. A spiritual base that generic language frees everyone to utilize the solution. Jewish, Christian, Agnostic, whoever, whatever can all use these simple steps and enter the gateway to freedom.
Just like my opinion man!
The Dude Abides and I live and prosper and have peace because of this solution
I am not saying if what you do works to do anything but stay with it. But if you are like me and none of that made any sense after YEARS of research then you might want to open yourself up to something spectacular!
Not downing what anyone else is a doing .
Just saying this is something of unimaginable splendor and open to ALL of God’s chillin!
Don’t matter what the problem is….the Solution is always the same! Imagine that!
Not saying it is for you, just working for me and might be something to think about.
Great post Dan.
Have a great one….I am
In all cases.. you’re suggesting that we must let something in from outside ourselves. But of course only we can do the letting.
Actually let what is inside us burst out!!!
Didn’t you hear the story father talking to his daughter. She been searching for meaning, looked everywhere every place.
Father told her God planted himself deep inside her and each of us knowing that would be the last place on earth she and we would look.
Not sure I got that story quite right .
Just want you to know you misunderstood. This spiritual being having a human experience is absolutely now and forever will be an inside job.
Thanks for endorsing #3 Dan, pointing out problems sans celebration of successes. Leaders sometimes assume it is a sign of weakness to recognize good work for fear that people will slack then slack off. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you are truly strength-based, that is an easy one to build on and it definitely energizes teams. Of course would also suggest celebration of lessons learned from past problems encourages soul searching for root causes.
Martina’s point is spot on–if you don’t have folks who will give you the Cliff Notes (do they still make those?) on your gaps and weaknesses, start cultivating them and reciprocate if they wish.
Other options might be to get an impartial third party, be it another person who you trust or even a recording device and watch/listen and get feedback that way.
If there is someone else in the world that has similar strengths that you believe you have, observe them critically for potential weaknesses and see if that shoe also fits.
Finally, if you have none of those options, then assume, yep, just assume that your strength is your weakness and make time to be introspective about how that can impact others.
Assume? really?? 😉
Love the idea of watching people who’s strength’s align with ours. Fascinating. My problem is I’m so gifted there aren’t many like me… Oooopppss.. That’s the problem, isn’t it!!
“sans” is a great word.
And the world is a better place for it Dan! Buhaha… Have an awesome rest o’ the day!
Good post again Dan, thank you.
I like your solutions section.
Leaders often think it’s all up to them to decide the way forward (Vision), map out the entire strategy, come up with all the answers.
But listening to others provides options, then a leader can (or at least is enabled to) take a balanced decision on the best option to realise the Vision.
Or even create a better vision!
Leaders who coach their teams often use the GROW model. Weak leaders should use it on themselves.
Good call on the GROW model. For those unfamiliar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GROW_model
I find the old style of leadership – everything is about what I do – hangs to me like molasses. I have to keep learning that everything depends on them. I’m not central, they are.
None of us are perfect, we all do the wrong thing sometimes, even with the best of intentions. But if we catch ourselves – ideally just before – we do the wrong thing, then we can Do The Right Thing (one of my core values) more often.
Dan – On point! Lack of self awareness and self management are big in my book too, as are lack of social awareness and relationship management (EQ). The five dangers you list (and many, many others not listed) all fit within that broad realm of EQ.
In my experience many leaders and organizations still adhere to the industrial paradigm of organizing and managing where attention to processes and results trump attention to human beings. I firmly believe that the charge for our aspiring future leaders is to shift their attention to the development of the human side of the equation – starting with self – ME.
Who am I? Who am I with you? and Who are we together? Future leadership success will be measured by “what we accomplish”. The solution to many of the “dangers”/challenges we face in leadership will come, I believe, by strengthening something I call “leader vitality”.
Wow! You are nailing it by adding the EQ dimension to this conversation. It took me years to realize that leadership is more about how people feel than getting them to do stuff. When you get the emotions, get out of the way… doing takes off.
Great post, Dan! I love the pictures painted in Strengthsfinder; each strength has its balconies and its basements.
I’m heading for the bookshelf now to take a look.
The study is by Tom Rath and can be found here: http://strengths.gallup.com/110440/default.aspx
This is not an affiliate or paid plug, I just really love the insight.
Self-Awareness and Honest Self Reflection are two greatest skill sets needed within any leader. Great Post.
Wow look at all those comments!
And yet I feel somewhat torn. Most of us wouldn’t get anywhere if we realised how foolish we were to start. Genius is eternal Patience (Michelangelo not me – it’s constant work in progress by my definition).
I feel there are many different themes in your post and the responses are a very mixed soup. Ego and arrogance are not tied at the hip, my coach said “understand that confidence is not arrogance, and arrogance not necessarily confidence”. Not recognizing people is another thing. Listening to the wrong people yet another.
There are so many different themes in what you have proposed and what has been responded.
Give me someone who’s just short of idiot and crazy enough to try over someone just short of genius who can’t decide where to lay their chips. So to that end – the most dangerous are those who ‘do nothing’, that said people with those failings you describe shouldn’t be graced with presence in the same sentence as leaders.
A final quote from Einstein -The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.
How can leaders become better at knowing their weaknesses?
One way is have confidants who are tasked with telling you the truth. Be open to alternate possibilities that help strengthen your weaknesses. No matter what position in life you find yourself, there are others who have abilities that can be modeled for self improvement.
What advantages come to leaders who embrace their weaknesses?
• Team formation
• Alternate contributions toward problem solving
• Empowerment of subordinates for the collective good
Fools and fanatics are always certain they are right. Wiser people have doubts.
The best thing for a leader to do is to surround themselves with smart people with complimentary skillsets
Not only do we grow stronger by recongnizing & deal with our weaknesses, but also when we notice and affirm the strengths and ideas of others. What a powerful post!
Sent from my iPod
Brilliant and true. I have recently seen an exact example of all you have said in a major company. Will reblog this one.
As usual you have hit the nail on head. I have also seen examples of this and its hard to believe how many do not want to acknowledge their weaknesses. its the only way to move forward. Thank you for your insightful blog!