Developing strenghs and weaknesses

Top tips by international consultancy DDI

While acknowledging the importance of emphasising and building strengths, it
is key to focus on weaknesses and fill in development gaps of leaders

1 Effective leaders must be strong in all areas

Effective leaders must be able to draw on a wide array of capabilities in
order to assume the many roles required of them. Most models that describe how
leaders accomplish these roles divide the required underlying behaviour into
12-16 units called competencies (for example building trust, empowering and so
on). Effective executives have enormous strengths in some competencies, while
they are merely proficient in others.

2 Strengths can’ t compensate for major weaknesses

Senior executives who run departments or business units must, at different
times, play all the executive roles. Successful leaders also avoid falling prey
to weaknesses related to executive derailers: negative personality traits that
can cause otherwise knowledgeable and skilled leaders to fail. Although hard to
change, the negative impact of derailers can be minimised or diffused through
coaching and other developmental techniques.

3 Strengths can be over-used

Effective leaders know when to use their strengths. The idea of growing
strengths, without encouraging insight into the possible downside of overuse,
can lead to personal disappointments and management havoc.

4 Focusing only on strengths can overburden others

In instances where a leader is weak in a critical area, others, recognising
the leader’s weaknesses, may be forced to manage around him or her. This
shifting of roles can cost an organisation a great deal.

5 Weaknesses might be confused with inexperience

Sometimes development needs result from a lack of experience rather than
from basis personality or behavioural factors. Individuals may have leadership
development needs that came about because of a lack of a challenge or
opportunity. These needs can often be filled and the particular quality may
even be transformed into a major strength.

6 Focusing only on strengths can limit job options

When individuals choose only to improve on areas where they are strong, they
can end up being under-utilised in narrow jobs in the lower levels of a

7 Individuals are not always in tune with their own true strengths and

Highly-talented people are often hypercritical of themselves and view a
relative weakness as an absolute weakness. These individuals usually get very
concerned over their ‘weak’ areas and devote quite a lot of time to developing
them into something approximating their strengths.

8 The true meaning of 20 per cent

In the book Now, discover your strengths Marcus Buckingham and Donald
Clifton state that only 20 per cent of employees believe they use their
strengths every day. Managers need to do a better job of discovering the
strengths of individuals and helping them maximise those strengths to the
mutual benefit of both the individual and the organisation, just as they should
also help individuals develop their weak areas.

9 Weaknesses can be successfully addressed

People have a surprising ability to develop and grow – even as mature
adults. Effective training can result in big payoffs to individuals and

10 Successful strategic leaders use all their executive competencies

Effective leaders have the necessary insight to flex their leadership
competencies to address given situations. Some competencies can be stronger
than others, but it is hard to be successful with major competency gaps. The
idea is not to throw away the competencies people already have, but rather to
develop those competencies along with others for success.

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