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 historic 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 marshal art to become a hero to herself and a champion for less accomplished people. We see everyday people who are dealing with physical challenges who 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 own skill set and have developed a team building strength that allows you to delegate tasks with which you struggle.
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 function for the team. Other times, I’ve noticed a student take on a task specifically because they need to strengthen that particular skill – perhaps financial analysis for example. I found myself suggesting to the whole student team that it would be a good exercise for all of them to dig deeply into the subject they took on because almost all of them had a lack of focus or willingness to do more than deliver “headlines” as opposed to real analysis. The “strength” of multitasking turns out to be a very big weakness and knowing that can lead to developing the skill of focusing and delving deeply into a subject.
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 certainly help us add value to our organizations. Yet, for continuous improvement and personal growth, it seems to me we have to keep working on mitigating our weaknesses through personal struggle. That is one of the ways we build character. Developing our own strengths and working on our weaknesses as well as helping our fellow teammates, colleagues and employees to play to their strengths AND work on their weaknesses will demonstrate our commitment to true servant leadership.