Public education makes a great argument for exposing children to various disciplines such as music, dance, art, sports, and of course, math, reading, science, and history. The argument is, of course, that the children need to be given the opportunity to experience each of these, with the hope being maybe they’ll find something at which they excel. However, most of us know, and our parents and teachers can tell, what one’s strengths are and aren’t. For example, most of us have a passable knowledge of basic math...enough to understand how interest rates work or estimating a purchase. But we bog down when it’s time for algebra, which is a weakness for many. What do the administrators give the poor algebra student? That’s right-more algebra! That poor algebra student may be a terrific writer or golfer, so why don’t we allow this student to maximize their strengths with the pen or the five-iron and just simply manage the math weakness?
What do we mean by “managing weakness”? It’s simple. Say you like to play golf but you’re a terrible golfer. You spend countless hours on your game and now instead of shooting 105 for a round, you’ve improved to 98. Do you feel more “well-rounded”? Probably not. Fixing weaknesses leads to being average or avoiding failure. When you “manage” your weaknesses, you realize and accept what they are, and work within them so they don’t get in the way of your talents. You can go out and play a round of golf, enjoy the exercise and fellowship of you fellow golfers, but realize you’re probably not going out on the pro tour any time soon.
So how does this translate to leadership in the business world? Leaders excel when they work within their talents. If a leader can identify his strengths and weaknesses, he can then assemble people around him who can cover his weaknesses while he covers theirs and have a more successful business. The worst thing a leader can do is surround himself with people just like him. Let’s suppose that a leader’s strength is coming up with ideas for a better widget, but his weakness is getting the widget from the drawing board into the factory for production. Imagine this leader surrounding himself with others sharing the same strengths. The business goes nowhere as the ideas pile up in the office while the factory workers sit idle. Effective leaders have the ability of knowing their strengths and knowing the strengths of those they lead to reach a shared outcome or goal. In this case, the development, production, and sales of a better widget.
Let’s revisit “well-roundedness” as it relates to our widget leader. If he follows the traditional model of trying to improve his weakness instead of managing it, how long must he work on strengthening it before the widget business passes him by? Wouldn’t it be more effective to find someone whose strength is implementing widget ideas? Let’s focus more on soaring with our talents and managing our weaknesses. Leaders have more hope, confidence, direction and are more productive when they tap into the wisdom of strengths.