“Is leadership inherent or trainable? Both. You are born with characteristics that reside deep inside you: drive, an ability to influence and motivate, perseverance. But you have to develop those qualities through actual leadership experiences. A key quality is adaptability–facing unexpected obstacles, falling short of goals, reading the context, and changing your approach. Absent that, leaders will continue to repeat mistakes and will not grow and develop. That leads me to the essence of the question “Why is it so hard to lead yourself?” The answer, in my experience, lies in the differences between your idealized self–how you see yourself and how you want to be seen–and your real self. The key to growing as a leader is to narrow that gap by developing a deep self-awareness that comes from straight feedback and honest exploration of yourself, followed by a concerted effort to make changes.”
— Bill George Source: quoted in Fast Company, April 2007 – Bill George is the former CEO of Medtronics, Inc.
The very character traits that peg you as a high-potential leader may also prevent you from making it to the finish line. Every strength has a shadow side when carried to the extreme. Self-awareness can prevent self-sabotage.
Here are a few examples of personality traits with their positive and negative sides, from Dr. Rick Brinkman in his book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand.
You probably have a sense of your personal talents and liabilities. Learning how to leverage them at work—amplifying your strengths, while managing your weaknesses—sets the stage for good interpersonal relationships. You’ll become less vulnerable and sensitive to criticism. You’ll also learn more about your leadership constitution:
- Do you have the drive, personality and desire necessary to shouldering executive responsibilities?
- Can you cope with the associated stressors and the job’s highs and lows?
Even the strongest, most talented leaders have flaws. Each of us is driven by conscious and unconscious forces that must be channeled into positive outcomes, so it’s important to seek personal development opportunities at every stage of your career. You won’t gain self-knowledge in a vacuum, so consider working with a mentor or experienced leadership coach.
Let me challenge you with this: if you were to sit down and write out your strengths and weakness, would you be able to do it? Do you know how to leverage and manage them for effective influence? Have you taken the time to know yourself well?
Try this exercise, and if you have questions, drop me a comment.
I’d love to hear from you.