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Are Your Greatest Weaknesses Also Your Greatest Strengths?
Conventional wisdom suggests a leadership weakness is often a strength carried too far. This idea is in line with the popular viewpoint that, “Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness.”
While that saying is more about making a point and less about an objective truth, there is little doubt that strengths become weaknesses when we hit people over the head with them. Every strength has a dark side.
Passion becomes intimidation when it is overplayed. An attention to detail becomes a rigid fixation when it is overemphasized. Decisiveness becomes a deterrent to dialogue when it is exaggerated. You get the idea.
But if strengths can become weaknesses, is the reverse also true? Can weaknesses ever become strengths? In many cases, the answer is yes.
An aversion to risks can provide much needed caution in a life-threatening event. Perfectionism, at times, allows people to work through roadblocks and challenges others would not. Fear of failure sometimes pushes people to work and practice harder. Disorganization can promote creative and out-of-box thinking on occasion.
When we let our strengths grab ahold of us without being checked, they become a weakness. When we apply our weaknesses to the right situation or problem, they can become a strength. That’s quite a twist to the contemporary way of thinking.
From this vantage point, the idea is not to eliminate our weaknesses, but to turn them into strengths by leaning into them. By learning when they serve us well and when they get in our way, we create a more realistic view of what a weakness really is.
When we do something well, we naturally find a way to do more of it. In contrast, when we do something poorly, we find a way to do less of it. Most weaknesses become dysfunctional precisely because we avoid the situations that allow us to conquer them. For instance, the weakness of taking feedback poorly becomes amplified the more we shun criticism. A weakness in public speaking becomes magnified when we avoid all experiences that require it.
The best leaders work on their weaknesses by applying them. Let’s face it. Most weaknesses never disappear entirely. Appreciating them on the occasions they become strengths promotes a healthier view of what they really are. Exposing ourselves to situations that require us to improve said weaknesses, if so ever slightly, is how to march them toward being more advantageous.
Keeping our strengths in check so they don’t become weaknesses is sound advice. Viewing our weaknesses as an accent rather than as a flaw is equally important. We don’t overcome weakness nearly as much as we commit to making them more productive. The best leaders do this by pushing past the discomfort they create and experiencing more situations that expose them.