I’m immediately going to shock some of you with this statement, but give me a chance to unpack my idea before you write me off.
In my opinion, the greatest leadership myth is this: Leaders should maximize their strengths and ignore their weaknesses.
Leadership experts promote this idea quite a bit. The basic concept is that leaders don’t need to waste time trying to improve on the skills they aren’t naturally good at. Instead, they should tap into their talents and become even better in those areas. Ninety-five percent of the time, I agree with this idea. However, there are some weaknesses that leaders can not ignore.
There are three leadership skills that people must have to lead well: Casting vision, executing strategy, and fostering relationships. Being unskilled or untalented in any of these three areas goes beyond weaknesses and moves into the dangerous territory of liabilities.
Few leaders are naturally gifted in all three skills, but think about the best leaders you’ve known. They could do all three skills at least marginally well. In all likelihood, they excelled at one or two of the skills. The one or two that they weren’t naturally good at, they still did pretty well.
Now think about the worst leaders you’ve known. They may have been good at one or two of these skills, but they were horrible at one or more of them.
For example, many of us have worked for a person who had the relational IQ of a caterpillar. Their lack of ability to foster relationships was not a weakness; it was a liability. People felt unimportant, undervalued, maybe even used.
That experience taught us that fostering relationships is a non-negotiable for leadership.