How Great Leaders Embrace Their Weaknesses

02 August 2016

Part 3: How Great Leaders Turn Their Weaknesses Into Strengths


In Part 1 and 2 we tried to explain what exactly the weakness in business leadership is (see the Part 1 below) and how leaders can identify their weakness (go to Part 2). Today we will examine exactly how great leaders go about embracing their weaknesses with a view to strengthening them or minimising their effect.

In a perfect world, each and every business leader would be absolutely flawless.  But, regrettably, we don’t live in a perfect world and every business leader has a few flaws.  That is not to say that they can’t be effective leaders, it just means that their strong leadership qualities are countered by a few weak ones.

Given that we live in an imperfect world, this is the case with every business leader.  And yet the world is full of brilliant leaders that are nothing if not successful.  So, if weakness is a part of every business leader, how do some still achieve this level of success?  The answer can be given in one word: acceptance.

The best leaders recognise and accept that they are not perfect and indeed have a few weaknesses, and they embrace these weaknesses and try to turn them into strengths.

This doesn’t mean that they try to eliminate them from their personalities.  Instead, great leaders function with their weaknesses, and still manage to be effective and inspirational.

But, how do leaders do this?  How do they manage their weaknesses in such a way that they are never inhibitive?  The following are some of the ways in which they accomplish the feat.

How to Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths

1. Preparation
Business leaders that know of and accept their weaknesses are in a good position to eliminate their effect through preparation.  If, for example, someone has a problem keeping track of time, it might help them to set reminders on their phone, notifying them of important meetings, etc.  This same approach can be applied to business leadership.  It simply involves making the necessary plans to counter the effect of any possible weaknesses.

2. Consultation
Some leaders feel that, as the decision-makers of their companies, they have to know everything.  This perception is absolutely ridiculous.  Leaders don’t have to have all of the answers.  Any great leader will tell you that there is no shame in consulting the opinions of others.  This promotes synergy, generates ideas and, importantly, limits the capabilities of leadership weaknesses.

3. Replacing the Weakness through Human Resources
Where business leaders are aware of a particular weakness negatively affecting their companies, the hiring of someone to curb that negative effect is often advantageous.  By bringing in an employee to control the task, or tasks, being affected by management weakness, a leader can simply cut the effects of that weakness out of the company.

4. Seeking External Support
Modern executive consulting is not aimed at targeting weaknesses as much as it is aimed at growing leadership abilities.  However, if some skills need to be strengthened in the pursuit of the creation of a better-rounded leader, this is a measure that will be taken.  Hiring external support can thus work well in helping leaders embrace their weaknesses and work around them.


Accepting Weakness is a Strength

Some people might say that finding the good in the bad is the best way to turn a weakness into a strength.  By this logic, a pedantic leader should embrace his or her finicky nature and call it passion.

While accepting that small parts of some weaknesses can be turned into strengths, simply renaming the weakness is perpetuating that weakness in the form of avoidance.

The best business leaders don’t avoid their weaknesses.  They accept that they have various weaknesses, they attempt to honestly identify them, and then they find ways to lead effectively without being affected by their weaknesses.


Part 2: How Great Leaders Identify Weaknesses Within Themselves

(16 August, 2016 by Russell Peach)


In Part 1 we tried to explain what the weakness in business leadership is. Here we continue by talking about how leaders can identify their weakness.

John Kotter, Professor of Leadership at the Harvard Business School, said that ‘Great leadership doesn’t mean running away from reality.’

Good leaders know to play to their strengths, and can be more than competent in doing so.  But great leaders recognise their own weaknesses, and focus on improving the areas in which they may be lacking, whether through executive consulting or otherwise.

Admitting weakness may sound to some like the hallmark of an unconfident, anxious leader.  But, in actual fact, it is the leader that refuses to accept that he or she has any flaws that stands to be victimised by confidence.  Leaders who recognise various weaknesses within themselves, yet refuse to be characterised by those weaknesses, are the leaders who relentlessly pursue and most often achieve success.

But, how do these business leaders go about identifying various weaknesses within themselves?


Ways in Which Great Leaders Identify Their Own Leadership Weaknesses

1. Introspection
One of the first methods of identifying weakness in oneself is through deep and honest self-examination.  Honesty is the key factor here.  Leaders who attempt to justify the weaknesses in themselves, or perhaps try to pass some weaknesses off as strengths, won’t get a clear picture of their leadership shortcomings, and thus won’t be able to truly tackle them.

2. Feedback from Colleagues
Some leaders turn to their colleagues for appraisals of their leadership, and the identification of weak areas.  This means urging those colleagues to be absolutely honest however, and not arguing with their thoughts.  Leaders who get defensive when receiving feedback won’t garner honest opinions, and thus won’t end up with a clear picture as to their weaknesses, ironic as that may be.

3. Evaluation of Data
When it comes to weaknesses, the numbers don’t lie.  Areas in which a leader is weak will suffer as a result, which will reflect in company data.  A good leader can use this data to identify these weak points and use them as a basis for future growth and development.

4. The Assistance of Advisors
Some leaders who are looking for weaknesses in their approaches turn to advisors for help.  By bringing advisors into business decisions, leadership weaknesses may be exposed through conflicting suggestions.  If a team of advisors is unanimous on a particular point, and that point happens to be in contrast with the business leader’s position, that may be a key indicator of weakness in that area.

5. External Assessments
Business leaders don’t always have to look inwards in order to discover weakness – be it within the company or within themselves.  It is quite possible for experts from the outside to provide clear suggestions as to any weaknesses in leadership style.  These could come as the result of personality tests or leadership assessments.


Identification Is the First Step Towards Resolution

As we mentioned earlier, leaders who possess distrust in the opinions of others or have difficulty accepting criticism may have a hard time of identifying their own weakness as a direct result of that weakness.

However, the leaders who can freely accept that they have various weaknesses are the ones that are most likely to conquer those weaknesses and become much more effective leaders in the future.

In Part 3 next week we will examine exactly how great leaders go about embracing their weaknesses with a view to strengthening them or minimising their effect.


Part 1: What Is Weakness in Business Leadership?

(2 August, 2016 by Russell Peach)


CEOs and executives aren’t just plucked off the street and asked to lead businesses. Whether they helm small enterprises or major corporations, leaders find themselves in their positions because of their ability to make decisions and inspire others.

So, when we talk about leadership weakness, we aren’t referring to a given leader’s inability to lead effectively. As mentioned, that leader wouldn’t have ever been placed in a leadership position should there be an inherent problem with his or her overall ability to lead a team (and, as executive consulting specialists, we know this more than anyone). Instead, when we talk about leadership weaknesses, we refer to small factors of a leader’s overall ability.

Over the three parts of this look into leadership weakness we intend to explore how great leaders identify and embrace the various weaknesses in their leadership abilities. But, before we can do that, we will first take a brief look at some of the common weaknesses amongst leaders.


Common Business Leadership Weaknesses

1. Distrust
This is one of the biggest weaknesses amongst leaders. It manifests itself in many forms (autocracy, arrogance, pessimism, etc.) but basically boils down to a lack of faith in colleagues. Part of good leadership involves delegation – placing trust in others and relinquishing total control over each aspect of every project. Failure to embrace this results in a fundamental leadership weakness.

2. Needing to be Liked
Leaders are humans first and business tools second. It thus stands to reason that many leaders possess that innate human trait of wanting to be liked and accepted. However, the business leaders that let this influence their business decisions are the victims of another common leadership weakness.

3. Neglecting Emotional Impact
In contrast to the leaders who make decisions based on how popular they will be with their employees, some leaders pay no attention to the emotional impact of their decisions. These leaders either disregard or fail to notice the emotional effect of their decisions, possibly due to a lack of emotional attunement or empathy.

4. Complacency
Leaders brought into companies to meet specific goals are always at risk of becoming complacent when reaching those goals. It is very tempting for a leader to see everything snap into place and then take his or her foot off the accelerator and coast. These types of leaders then wait until they receive a new set of objectives before creating new ideas, which defeats the purpose of leadership.

Failing to Notice Weakness Is a Weakness in Itself

It is easy for us to identify business leadership weaknesses from an objective viewpoint. However, it is much harder for some leaders to adopt an introspective viewpoint and truthfully identify their own weaknesses. This is perhaps the first form of weakness that needs to be dealt with.


This article was contributed by Russell Peach from Flow20, who offer web design, SEO and other digital marketing solutions.


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