In fact, your weaknesses might make you a better leader. Let me explain.
I realize that’s somewhat counter-intuitive. If there’s an adjective that describes what most of us consider to be good leadership, it’s ‘strong.’ Strong leaders effect change and usher in better days, right?
Well, on the one hand, that’s true.
I’ve been called a strong leader many times over my time in leadership. But I have a problem.
I mostly see my weaknesses.
In fact, the longer I lead, the more I see my weaknesses. I realize I have limits that I bump into every day; limits in terms of my ability to communicate, to problem solve, to bring out the best in people, to navigate the challenges in front of me.
I live with them constantly in my field of vision.
If you’re really honest with yourself, you see yours too.
The tension is that it’s easy to believe that your weaknesses disqualify you from leadership. And for sure, sometimes they do.
Don’t put me in front of an excel spreadsheet any time soon, unless you really don’t care about your organization. And don’t let me project manage something for you unless you’d like to see some big gaps in the event. There are some things I should just stay away from for everyone’s sake.
I’m not talking about leading in an area you have no giftedness or skill in.
I’m talking about leading in an area in which you have a proven or growing track record — a calling and some skill. In other words, an area in which you’re a leader worth following.
Even there, you bump up against your limits regularly. It’s in those areas that we think our weaknesses disqualify us. And if we capitulate to that line of thinking, then we can become incapacitated as a leader, either stepping back or letting fear keep us from our potential.
But what if you could leverage your weakness as a strength in your leadership? What if understanding and even talking honestly about your limits to could help you lead better.
Here are three ways in which you already see admission of a weakness as a strength in other leaders:
1. You don’t like to follow leaders who never show cracks in their armour, do you? You think of them as either arrogant or as people you can’t (or don’t want to) relate to.
2. When a leader reveals his or her weakness, you listen. It helps you find common ground.
3. Revealing struggles and weaknesses shows humility on the part of the leader. Humility is always attractive.
In addition, you’ve learned more through your weaknesses than you ever have from you strengths.
Why insulate your team from all that?
When a leader is honest about his or her strengths and weaknesses, it creates:
A point of identification
Relief (I’m so glad I’m not alone)
This is true of preachers and communicators too by the way (please don’t just tell everyone your “I’m so awesome” success stories). It’s true of any of us who are responsible for leading a group.
Here are three ways you can leverage your weakness as a strength this week:
When talking about where your team needs to go, reveal an area in which this will be a challenge or even struggle for you too. We are working on leadership development with our staff team and volunteers, and I shared with our team that I’ve realized I’m a much better leadership recruiter (finding talent) than I am developer (building talent). So I shared with them that we were going to have to learn this together. In addition, I shared that others in the organization were better at it than I was and I (we) could learn a lot from them.
Admit a weakness when you need to talk to someone else about their weakness. One of my challenges as a leader is that I instantly see what’s wrong in almost any situation (at least I think I do…), and if I’m not careful I can come across as overly critical. So I always try to find a win to talk about first and include something I didn’t do well in a necessary conversation about things that didn’t go well.
Identify your weakness as a chance to get help and grow. I have coaches I use to help me see my blindspots and grow as a leader. I read widely. I turn to colleagues and friends to help me, and I let my team know that. All of this helps take the pressure off of people to feel like they have to have it all together. We can learn and grow together.
When you worry about your weakness, you simply join the rest of the planet. When you figure out how to leverage your weakness as you lead, you become a better leader.
And besides (here comes the best reason of all), God’s power always works best in human weakness anyway. Isn’t that the point of the Gospel?
How have you leveraged your weakness for the greater good?