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How you tame the dark side of your strengths: The „Do as I do!“ Leader

It’s paradoxical – the stronger your strengths, the less effective you are. So, watch out for your strengths as they may do harm to others – and thus, fire back on you. Here are 5 easy steps to uncover and tame your super strengths that may turn into weaknesses. Part 2 on the „What do you think?“ Leader will published soon.

Coping with the strengths paradox

Do you know these strengths? You are ambitious, act decisively, get things done? You do everything to make it happen? You are energetic, straight and exceed expectations? Do you recognize yourself?

Leading is difficult, it requests to cope with uncertainty, to take decisions without knowing all details, to act rapidly under stress. And sometimes it kicks us off course. We sense that people around us are not on the same page. Something is going on, we are losing followership.

All of us know these situations when we overdo our strengths and get victimized by them: It is time to make yourself acquainted with the fact that your super strengths that make you indispensable can do harm. To your peers or your team members – and thus, to your effectiveness as a leader.

Be aware of your strengths derailing

Your strenghts can turn into derailers if overtuned. This is when…

  • … your ambitious decision-focus turns into domineering, overruling behaviour
  • … your result focus may switch into impatient actionism
  • … your delivery discipline can trigger a constant non-appreciative deficit focus
  • … your energetic straight-forwardness may mutate into a dismissive, intimidating style.

The impact of this behaviour on others is risk-avoidance and a „cover-my-…“ attitude. Let me quote a manager reflecting his reaction to his CEOs derailers: „I am no fool – I have stopped putting issues openly on the table. This is what you get: 10 helping hands, a „good“ advice and the bad feeling that you are dopy.“ That`s what you do not want – that your team shys away, shuts up, hides real issues.

You do NOT recognize yourself? You are no „Do as I do!“ Leader? Then watch out for my next article on LinkedIn focusing on strengths and fatal flaws of the „What do you think?“ Leader. Maybe that`s your turn.

The „out of comfort zone“ is the only place where you learn and develop as a leader

Great leaders make self-improvement a regular practice. Here are ways they go about it. 5 steps to manage your strengths – in fact, to strengthen your strenghts in a positive way:

1. Identify your super strengths and their potential derailers:

To improve, you need to know what needs improvement. List your 3 core strengths and derive potential derailers.Notice how you behave in different situations. Which behaviour made you effective, which not. Look honestly at your behaviour and the reactions from others – and you’ll know what to keep and what to leave behind.

2. Team up for feedback with a trusted colleague:

The best leaders understand that feedback is a gift. For feedback they team up with a long-standing team member, a new colleague with a fresh view, a peer – whoever can be helpful. Direct feedback is the quickest way to learn how to improve. They seek perceptions from a trusted colleague who is straight to the point. You don`t have one? Then ask yourself, why? If you look for a reason, start with the person in the mirror.

3. Step „on the balcony“ and read the room:

Reflect while act, that means you multitask in the situation. As a leader you are used to it. So, you can easily do this as well. While acting, reach out to what happens around you. You can see a lot: body language, posture, facial expressions, quick glances, twisting eyes, who talks, who does not…? You simply have to train and sharpen your senses to feel the impact of your behaviour.

4. Experiment with yourself:

Stepping out of your comfort zone and making yourself vulnerable is the most rapid accelerator for your development. You simply have to keep in mind one rule: If you stay in your cozy shelter you won`t develop. „Wow, that`s courage!“ I will never forget the spontaneous response of a CFO to his CEO who just shared his fatal flaws with his team. The actionist drive of the CEO had turned his team sour – and making himself vulnerable was his only way forward.

5. Start now and keep yourself in the feedback loop:

The best leaders understand the power of consistently working towards a goal. If you commit to one daily practice, you will get a little closer to where you want to go. Sounds easy? It is not. Self-development is a messy process with set-backs. But one of your core strenghts as a „Do as I do!“ Leader is your tenacity and professional will. This endurance is your biggest asset.

Be a Conscious Leader: I trust that you are highly experienced in disciplined thought, disciplined action and disciplined follow-through – that`s what brought you where you are today! This is exactly what you need in order to manage yourself as a development project. Just grab the challenge!


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Dr. Kai W. Dierke + Dr. Anke Houben

Top Management Coaches, Authors and Adjunct Professors of Leadership

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