In our previous blog "Lopsided leadership - When leaders' strengths fail", we asserted that leadership strengths when overemphasized are often overused. This is the downside of strengths-based leadership development. We need to take into account how the very strengths that leaders depend on can be detrimental to careers and to the people they manage.
Who hasn’t worked for a star-performing leader who was exceptionally brilliant at operational details and has been micromanaged to death? Or for a supportive boss who asked for everyone’s input but delayed making timely decisions? In the work we do with our clients, we constantly hear these complaints.
Two authors who are helpful in understanding how leadership strengths can actually backfire are Robert B. Kaiser and Robert E. Kaplan. Kaiser and Kaplan wrote about this phenomena in their book Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013).
Some leaders don’t recognize their own strengths. They underestimate their assets, downplay their efforts, and deflect positive feedback. They fail to understand and own the extent of their impact on others.
In working with some fine leaders, we have observed that those who achieve and maintain peak performance recognize and accept their talents. They learn how to fine-tune their strengths and become self-aware and attuned to appropriate context.
How assessment tools help in identifying strengths
Some management assessment tools are ill-equipped to pick up on overplayed strengths. Feedback and performance reviews are commonly structured on scales that range from “never” to “sometimes” to “always” (or “doesn’t meet expectations,” “meets them” or “exceeds them”). Assessment scales rarely indicate the nuance of how a leader exercises too little, the right amount, or too much of a quality. However, there are a few assessments that provide this additional insight.
Our experience working with assessments and witnessing our clients' insights raises our confidence in recommending EQ360, the Emergenetics Profile, and the Emerson 3D Management as effective assessments. This trio of assessments have been effective in creating awareness and encouraging action to avoid overplayed and under-utilized strengths. These assessments complemented by executive coaching serve to launch the conversation.
Overplayed strengths are often at the root of career failures. Analyses of derailed leaders show they often rely excessively on qualities linked to past successes but less relevant to current roles.
Our guest blogger, Sue Edwards, PCC of Development by Design expanded on this topic in her article "Letting go of what got you here".
Does any of this sound familiar? Do these ideas resonate for you? What have you observed as the leaders in your organization move onto their next levels of leadership?
We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and begin the conversation about the value we can bring to your organization.
For more information on the EQ360, the Emergenetics Profile, the Emerson 3D Management assessments and the innovative work we do to enhance our clients' peak performance, contact Patricia Muir at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-804-4383. Connect and follow us on LinkedIn, Maestro’s Facebook, Twitter.