I’ve often pointed out the corollary to that headline as: “A strength, overused, will become a weakness.” I think both of these sayings are worth keeping in mind as we continue the hard work of developing ourselves and others.
There are many historical examples of people struggling to overcome weaknesses and turning them into strengths. The person who stutters, for example, may work hard to overcome that impediment and become a great orator or singer. Or the “weakling” who studies, practices and masters a martial art to become a hero to herself and a champion for less accomplished people. We see everyday people dealing with physical
challenges that never let them become impediments to leading full and productive lives.
There are also stories of compensating for a weakness in other ways, creating a tangential strength. Perhaps you recognize a “weakness” or “deficiency” in your skillset and have developed a team-building strength that allows you to delegate tasks with which you struggle.
Back at School
In my work with college students, I have noticed how easily they collaborate by stating what they are good at and offering to fill that team’s function. Other times, I’ve seen a student take on a task precisely because they need to strengthen that particular skill — perhaps financial analysis, for example. I suggested to the whole student team that it would be a good exercise for them to dig deeply into the subject they took on. I offered that since almost all of them lacked focus or willingness to do more than deliver “headlines” instead of real analysis. Their belief in the “strength” of multitasking turns out to be a considerable weakness. I made that suggestion knowing that delving deeply into a subject can lead to developing the skill of focusing.
The Strength Finders movement suggests that we not waste time trying to “fix” our weaknesses. Instead, we should work on playing to our strengths. As long as we don’t take that too far, it will undoubtedly help us add value to our organizations. Yet, for continuous improvement and personal growth, it seems we have to keep working on mitigating our weaknesses through personal struggle. That is one of the ways we build character. Developing our strengths and working on our shortcomings, and helping our fellow teammates, colleagues, and employees play to their strengths AND work on their weaknesses will demonstrate our commitment to authentic servant leadership.
[Updated 9/16/2017 Lightly edited in 10/2020 for our new website.]