When Leadership Strengths become Weaknesses – Part 2

September 19, 2017

Leadership strengths can become weaknesses!

I wrote an article on leaders whose “driver” traits—their boldness, directness, competitiveness, productivity-focus, and independence—show up in extremes or become overused.

I’ve worked with many of these leaders. They are the command-and-control, turn‘em-and-burn‘em, theory X leaders.

Leadership Strengths Development Plan

In order to eliminate some of these “good” traits gone “bad”, we negotiate a Leadership Development plan that looks something like this:

  1. Increase cooperation, participation and collaboration with others
  2. Learn and practice tactful communication
  3. Increase sensitivity to others
  4. Help others succeed via servant leadership
  5. Be more flexible, compromising, and accepting
  6. Understand that you need people
  7. Recognize the needs of others
  8. Pace oneself and relax more

How can you do the same in your organization?

How can you encourage your managers, supervisors, and directors to be servant leaders who are masters of motivation and influence?

Lead by Example

To begin, model it in your own interactions.

The way in which you interact with your managers, supervisors, and directors will influence the way in which they interact with their direct reports.

These interactions impact the way your front line employees treat your clients or customers.

This parallel process refers to the tendency of things to “roll down the hill”, so to speak.

If you think that this type of leadership is too passive or too “soft”, don’t believe it for a minute.

You’ll never improve your leadership if you continue to think that way. In order to become a servant leader, you must first address these negative and self-limiting thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and conclusions:

“I don’t know if I can really do this ‘Servant Leader’ stuff.”

Actually, most of the principles of servant leadership are simple concepts that have been around for centuries.

“I don’t have the time to sit and listen to these people whine or complain!”

You may be short on time and it may be very important to you that everyone is productive.

However, it only takes a few brief moments to listen actively to your employees’ concerns. Model the same empathetic listening that you want to see in your team and you’ll see people following your lead down the organization.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and the only way these people change is if I confront them and rail on them.”

This approach may have worked for you in the past, but it is not the best method to use long-term. It leads to dissent, and breeds resentment.

Who Needs to Change?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Be the change you want to see.”

However, “being the change” I’m referring to here is often very difficult for these dominant, take-charge type leaders. Why? According to Scott Keller, co-author of Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage, they don’t see themselves as part of the problem.

Although they agree with the principle that leaders must model the desired changes, they don’t believe that they are the ones who need to change.

Most conscientious people with a strong work ethic believe they are doing the right thing. Otherwise, they would not do it. Most of us have what Keller refers to as “self-serving bias” or blind optimism about our own behavior.

Like the Clydesdale horses, we all wear “blinders”, making us think we are better than we actually are.

That is why it’s so important for leaders to have a behind-the-scenes silent partner and adviser to inform them that “their fly is open”, “their slip is showing”, or they’re about to “slip on a banana peel”.

Ready for Change

A person must first be ready, willing, and able to make a change.

By ready, willing, and able, I mean that they want the change, are able to make the change, see the reasons for making the change, recognize the need to make the change, and are committed to making that change.

In addition, completing a 360 feedback tool can help motivate the leader and build readiness to change.

So, how do I inform these high-ranking, well-accomplished, very intelligent leaders convinced that their personality contributed to their success and can’t possibly be part of the problem?

First of all and most importantly, I ask permission to give the feedback.

For example, I say:

  • “There’s something that worries me here.”
  • “Would it be all right if I shared with you how this hurts your ability to… (state their goal)?”
  • “Would you like to know what I noticed…?”
  • “Do you want to know what I would do, if I were in your situation?”
  • “I could tell you some things others have done that worked…”
  • “Could I play devil’s advocate here…?”
  • “Are you open to suggestions/solutions?”
  • You mentioned you want … (state their goal). Would you like to know if there’s something that’s getting in the way…?”

Next, I preface any advice or suggestions with permission to disagree or disregard. For example:

  • “This may or may not be important to you…”
  • “I don’t know if this will make sense to you…”
  • “You may not agree…”
  • “I don’t  know how you’ll feel about this…”
  • “Tell me what you think of this…”

Pause and Listen

Next, I pause and listen.

Allowing the person to respond, soliciting that input, is critical to maintaining the leader’s dignity, credibility, and composure. It’s also about maintaining a spirit of self-determination, responsibility, autonomy, and control.

Lastly, I collaborate with the individual to come up with solutions.

When choosing what to do, it’s always better to offer several options rather than suggesting only one.

How Can Leaders Encourage Managers?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Barbara Jordan
Barbara Jordan
Barbara is an author, speaker, and leadership coach. Sign up to receive the ezine “Success Tips for Busy Leaders” or sign up to receive a free sample chapter of Achieve Success In Spite of Stress. Connect with her via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  • You’ve made some excellent points in this article. My experience coaching leaders aligns with your observations. In the CDR assessments we see that someone who has strong leadership skills of taking charge, driven to succeed, and being highly competitive can also display the traits of being pushy, aggressive, or not empowering others. Strengths used to excess often become weaknesses.

  • Raul Silva says:

    You nailed it. Seems like we are all so caught up in the MOB results or in KPI’s these days so we often forget one of the most important role of any leader has is to actively listen to their fellow team mates and to treat employees as their customers. It can be sometimes a humbling experience to realize you have to go back to square one, as far as establishing and reinforcing the servant leadership traits, but in the end you will have a more engaged and cooperative team.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Barbara Jordan says:

    Thanks Ed for your comments. I am committed to helping these leaders moderate their strong “D” personalities to become more like servant leaders.

  • Barbara Jordan says:

    Thanks Raul for your comments. Yes, the bottom line is important. But, we must show that we value the people who help us reach organizational goals and objectives by listening, demonstrating understanding, and empowering them through servant leadership.
    Barbara Jordan

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