17 Nov '08
Self-understanding and dealing with personal weaknesses
The senior leaders of our organization recently went through a very helpful exercise designed to help each of us think honestly and accurately about our strengths and our areas of weakness.
Specifically we asked each leader to give a synopsis of their strengths (we do a lot of testing to help individuals understand their strengths). We then asked them to identify areas of weakness and how those weaknesses impacted their ability to lead well. Finally we asked them to share how they compensate for those weaknesses because weaknesses have an impact on ourselves and on those we lead.
After each one shared we invited colleagues to ask questions and make observations from their perspective.
An exercise like this requires a great deal of trust because it only works with a high level of self-disclosure about those areas we struggle with - areas we often try to hide from others in our desire to look strong.
I will not share the analysis of others but will share my own for purposes of illustrating how this kind of exercise can help us grow as leaders, in self-knowledge, in honest disclosure and in having a plan to compensate for known weaknesses.
We know, by the way, that weaknesses will never be a strength so trying to make our weakness strengths is a non-starter. God blessed each of us with areas of strength and it is up to us to figure out how to compensate for weaknesses so that our leadership is not compromised by it.
My strengths revolve around communication, strategy and vision, building teams and releasing other good leaders and envisioning the future. In many ways, my greatest value to an organization is helping determine the needed architecture, spiritual, organizational and strategy wise in order to meet our desired objectives. I am then the chief evangelist or communicator of that direction.
Not that is all well and good, but almost everything else are weaknesses that need to be "managed" so that they do not hurt the very organization I lead.
For instance, since it is easy for me to envision the future, it would also be easy for me to push the organization into that future at a pace that is not sustainable or healthy and which would create a backlash to what otherwise is a good direction. So it becomes important for me to have beside me an expert in process and I have that in my co-leader of the mission. If I am the architect, he is the wise contractor determining the pieces, the timing and the key subcontractors, (other leaders) that we need.
In my personal desire to get things done for maximum ministry impact I face two real challenges: the temptation to say "yes" to too many obligations which dissipate the power of my strengths and to not be as discriminating as I should be as to what I agree to take on. Now the strength of maximizing ministry is great but the shadow side described along with it is not.
Thus I almost always run significant opportunities past my wife, who is impacted by my schedule, and two colleagues who work closely with me and know me well, Lindsay and Gary. And they tell me what they think, sometimes without my even asking. And it is a blessing because it helps keep me in the most productive place possible rather than getting into good things at the expense of the most critical things.
As a matter of practice, I never make key decisions by myself without talking them through with key advisers and the senior team of the organization I lead. I am thoroughly convinced that the collective wisdom of a group of wise leaders is far better than the solitary wisdom of any one leaders.
I could list many other weaknesses and my strategy for dealing with them but I think you get the picture. Understanding both the up side and down side of our wiring and abilities is critical to the self-knowledge necessary to lead and the ability to find ways to compensate for weakness which have the potential to hurt our leadership.
It is an exercise you might think about trying with your team.