In conversation with several leaders over the past few weeks the topic of trying to ‘fit in’ and become a well-rounded leader has come up frequently. One leader was interviewing for a new position in a different department and struggled with questions regarding where she needs to grow as a leader. “I can’t be honest and admit my actual weaknesses in an interview, can I?” she asked. I asked her to imagine she actually felt safe being honest and then answer the question, "what would I say?". Her answer changed to, “I would admit that I struggle with giving and receiving feedback". She then reverted back to her original thinking and added, "...but I can’t say that, they might not consider me for the role". My next question to her was, “Would you rather they find out now or later?” Because they will find out!
In Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall’s book, “Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World” Lie #4 says that the best people are well-rounded.
Buckingham and Goodall whole heartedly disagree. Truth #4 states: “The best people are spiky. Because for humans, uniqueness is a feature, not a bug.”
Another leader is a highly respected project manager. In some aspects he is a great leader, his team can be counted on to get things done, and he’s a master in client relationships. His challenge is that he has little patience with people on his team who don’t think as strategically and systematically as he does. Does this make him an overall poor leader? Because he is weak in this one area? The reality is that we all have parts of our role where we shine and parts where we struggle.
When we implement large scale leadership development projects, we focus on helping organizations create an environment where people are given opportunity to live in their strengths…and be raggedy in their weaknesses. In order to do this, there must be SAFETY & TRUST.
Think about your own beliefs around leadership…
- Do you believe your work and your communication need to be perfect?
- Do you believe showing weakness is bad?
- Do you believe you have to act a certain way in order to be accepted and seen as competent or promotion ready?
- Do you feel confident ‘doing you’?
In both the examples above we explored how it would feel to be honest about the strengths they bring to the table and the areas that challenge them. Think how freeing it would be to stand in front of your team and say, “Here’s what you can expect from me as a leader, here’s where I’m really strong and here’s where I really struggle and I will need your help with those things.”
When organizations create a safe environment for people to be truly human and open about their strengths and challenges, leaders can show up fully. People will contribute far higher value when they trust it is okay for them to simply ‘do them’.