Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Leverage Leadership Strengths and Mitigate Weaknesses

A good post from Working Resources, an Executive Coaching firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 Maynard Brusman
30th January 2013

Leadership Strengths and Weaknesses 

To become a successful philosopher king, it is better to start as the king than as the philosopher. -- Nassim Taleb in "Antifragile" 

I recently spoke with the VP of Talent Management of a company regarding providing executive coaching for the company CEO. She asked some very pertinent questions to determine fit. She specifically wanted to know how I worked with different personality styles, and my methods for initiating behavioral change. 

The VP of Talent Management and I spoke about my approach to coaching, and my belief that possessing a psychological understanding of human behavior and business acumen are important competencies for coaching executives. We also spoke of the need for her organization to create a strengths-based culture where innovation flourishes. 

The VP of Talent Management is interested in partnering with me in helping the CEO to become a build on his strengths and mitigate perceived weaknesses by the Board. We further discussed how company executives can benefit by working with a seasoned executive coach. 

I believe leaders are successful by leveraging strengths, and mitigating weaknesses: by taking prudent risk in the hope of significant reward; and by realizing, as Churchill did, that success is never final and failure rarely fatal—it’s courage that counts. 

I am a strong advocate of helping my executive coaching clients leverage their strengths. I also strongly support the importance of individuals mitigating their weaknesses. Frequently, I stress how much of our success in life comes from utilizing our strengths -- your intellectual strength and determination, for example, may have enabled you to complete your college degree or another significant achievement. However, challenges we face in our future may involve you doing things that are difficult for you -- especially if one's goal involves advancing to a higher level of leadership. 

I'm a fan of strengths assessments such as the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths or the Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0. However, there is nothing in those two assessments that prompts an individual to consider if they may be using a strength too much, whereas the Leadership Versatility Index (Kaplan Devries) also measures "overused strengths". 

McCall and Lombardo's interview studies conducted at the Center for Creative Leadership of derailed executives led them to them introduce the phrase, "strengths can become weaknesses". The Leadership Versatility Index gives leaders feedback on if they are doing behaviors "too little", the "right amount", or "too much". 

In a study of 421 upper-level managers, Kaiser and Kaplan found that by comparing self-report and 360 degree feedback the least effective managers overrated their effectiveness, and the most effective managers underrated their effectiveness. In fact, the high performing managers often did not have a good grasp of what their strengths are. This lack of strength awareness can cause them to overuse certain strengths in challenging situations because they come naturally to them. Of course this also is an argument to use strengths assessments to increase self-awareness. 

Is there a cost to overusing a particular strength? It seems obvious that to underutilize a strength, when that strength is needed, will lead to lower performance. It is just as true that to use a particular strength more than the ideal amount needed for the situation is equally harmful. 

Kaiser and Kaplan point out that you can have a manager that is a forceful leader -- who can take charge and provide clear direction. This leadership quality is often needed, especially with a new employee or in a crisis. However managers who are too forceful and too tough make employees feel badly about their work, and at the same time a leader who spends too much time including everyone in a decision and is too concerned about people's feelings for the situation, will get lower business results. 

The solution is to be versatile -- to display the "right" amount of their strengths for the situation at hand. The researchers describe being high in versatility as being a master of opposites. For example, managers or leaders can be evaluated for versatility by looking at pairs of leadership attributes such as Forceful and Enabling leadership by calculating how close their ratings are to the "right amount" on both dimensions. 

The bottom line is we need to balance focusing on strengths with a realistic assessment of where and how we may be overusing our strengths. Discovering your true strengths is the path towards improvement and success. When you pay too much attention to your deficits and try to overcome them, you are placing emphasis on becoming what you are not. You wind up living a second-rate version of someone else’s life rather than a world-class version of your own. 

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to grow emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide strength-based executive coaching for leaders? Sustainable leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more compelling future. 

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Do I build on my leadership strengths and mitigate weaknesses?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their leadership development programs. 

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders develop their strengths. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company. 

About Dr. Maynard Brusman 

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders. Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

1 comment:

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