Everybody has their weaknesses. But when you become a leader, you really have to leave yours behind.
The most effective, successful leaders make a point of finding out what their weaknesses are and attack them. They do everything they can to become strong where they were once weak. These people are very rare.
The more usual leader avoids addressing his personal weaknesses. After all, he is the big cheese, right? Admitting the weakness would run contrary to how he likes to see himself. It’s easy enough to blame the ensuing problems on others. He doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal, and he is not willing to push himself.
The weakness is often rooted in a mode of behavior that worked when the person was around five years old, but has become counterproductive now that the person is an adult. These inappropriate, childish behaviors in a leader affect the performance of the entire company. Employees dread coming to work and dealing with the consequences of their boss’ behavior, and customers will avoid doing business with the company because they are aware of the negative consequences caused by the boss’ beliefs and behaviors.
All employees see the boss’ weaknesses, plain as day. They know the boss avoids conflict, or needs to micro-manage, or has to play Little Dictator. They know the boss is always late or talks too much or plays one person against another. They know the boss tells little white lies. They know the boss talks a good game, but when it comes to actually following through, he’s missing in action. They know the boss dotes on some app he developed in his thirties, a creaky old kludge that should have been abandoned long ago, but is still being used for the company’s day-to-day operations.
Employees are the ones who must try to find a way to make things work in spite of their boss’ mismanagement. They give it a good try, but it’s a losing battle. Sooner or later, they decide: “This is hopeless. He’s never going to change, and we are always going to have these problems. I give up.”
I know a manager whom his employees refer to as “perpetually disappointed.” He has no idea that his disappointment comes from his own conflicting direction. He tells them one thing is important in one meeting, and emphasizes something completely different in the next meeting. When they deliver what he asked for in the first meeting, he tells them they are idiots because what they delivered doesn’t match what he’s concerned about now. His employees devote most of their energy to avoiding his wrath. One person has managed to keep from having a one-on-one conversation with this manager for six years.
Why do employees stay in these situations? They all have talented friends who have been looking for a decent job for ages. Plus, they actually like what they do, and they like their co-workers.
Another manager I know is fully aware of his weaknesses and works on them constantly. He embraces any good idea, and is always looking for ways to improve. He is absolutely honest in all his dealings, and expects the same from his staff. The good people in the company love working for him, and his company is on the way up.
When I start working with a new client, I interview both the customers and the employees. As I do, it becomes obvious what the CEO’s strengths and weaknesses are. How he reacts when we talk about his weaknesses – privately and frankly – tells me right away just how successful our revenue-increasing activities will be.
What’s your weakness? You can find out, easily and quickly, by using an anonymous tool such as Survey Monkey, and asking two questions: What are the character traits you most appreciate in your CEO? Which character traits make it tougher for you to do your job?
The answers may surprise you. Whatever they are, if you want higher revenues and everyone’s respect, attack the weakness they identify. Learn how other people successfully deal with those issues and adopt their methods.
The truth is, you can’t behave like a loser and expect to win. Excusing your own shortcomings makes it more difficult for your employees to do the right thing, and makes you an easy target for a more adult competitor.