Lopsided leadership - When leaders overplay strengths

Many leaders fear they will lose their edge if they stop leading with their strengths [see previous posts in this series]. Instead, they would benefit from learning to use their strengths more selectively. 

This may be the hardest developmental work one can take on. Behavioural changes are a demanding goal, and it’s even harder to change or modulate what you have always done so well and have celebrated. This intense developmental work often requires that you trace your leadership behaviour back to faulty thinking that led you to form false assumptions. For more insight on this point, read Sue Edwards' guest blog Letting go of what got you here.

You will be relieved to learn that this work does not require therapy. Working with one of our accredited executive coaches can help you realign your leadership strengths and enhance your peak performance.

A fun and topical diversion: Are you typecast?

Credit to 10 Most Typecast Actors of all time by Jason Serafino, 11/26/12

Credit to 10 Most Typecast Actors of all time by Jason Serafino, 11/26/12

Most likely you are well-known for and acknowledged for your strengths. Acknowledgement and accolades can be seductive, but very limiting. Think about actors who have been typecast by overplaying their strengths. Typecasting severely limits actors from expressing their full-range of talent. Both the actors and their fans suffer. While some actors cash-in on their typecast, others suffer a bland career and a limited fan-base. Their fans eventually disengage as genres become overplayed and boring. Now think of actors who have been typecast, but have persevered to break the typecast mold and reinvent themselves based on their full spectrum of skills. They have continued to develop their skills and attract roles that contribute to job satisfaction, fan retention, and endearing longevity. That's peak performance!

10 Most Typecast Actors of All Time by Jason Serafino. Although some of these actors are favourites, we crave for something different from them.

Back to leadership - Dualities of lopsided leadership

All managers, regardless of level, are likely to overuse strengths. Doing so not only corrupts these strengths, but creates specific weaknesses. If you believe your strengths are the only way to manage people, you will ignore equal and opposing strengths. This leads to lopsided leadership, that Kaiser and Kaplan explain in Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013).

Most leaders are familiar with the concept of skill sets coming in pairs. Multiple assessment tools classify people’s preferences as either “task-oriented” vs. “people-oriented,” “big picture” vs. “detail-oriented” or “analytic” vs. “intuitive.” 

Our preferences are usually unconscious, reflecting our experiences and innate qualities. We’ve learned to define ourselves as one thing and not the other. Over the course of our careers, one strength grows while the other decays.

Let’s look at the positive and negative characteristics of four personality traits, as explored by Drs. Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner in Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst (McGraw-Hill Education, 2002):

Personality Type.png

Can you identify your manager or a peer on this chart? What about yourself?

How is your organization and your peak performance affected by these positive and negative characteristics?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Let's begin the conversation about the value we can bring to you and your organization.

For more information on the leadership assessments, we recommend (EQ360, Emergenetics Profile, Emerson 3D Management) and the innovative work we do to enhance our clients' peak performance, contact Patricia Muir at patricia@maestroquality.com or call 416-804-4383. Connect and follow us on LinkedInMaestro’s FacebookTwitter