The Two Lenses of Leadership

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This post builds on the last post which was about strengths. I believe we all have natural abilities that can be developed into strengths if we are willing to invest the necessary time, resources and effort. I would like to examine strengths and weaknesses through two lenses and discuss a key difference between them. These two lenses are competence and character.

Competence is the required skill, knowledge and capacity to perform a task or a job while character can be defined as the collection of traits and features that form the nature of an individual. All leaders have strengths and weaknesses in both areas of competence and character. Yet different approaches are required when dealing with them.

Successful leaders are those that seek to maximise their strengths and manage their weaknesses in the area of competence. Andy Stanley states that a leader’s fully exploited strengths are of far greater value to an organization than his marginally improved weaknesses. Leaders manage their weaknesses by hiring and recruiting others who are strong in the areas in which they are weak. This compensates for any deficiencies that the leader might have and it frees him to play to his strengths. A leader can’t be strong at everything but needs to be strong in the few things that will make him an effective and productive leader.

John Maxwell states that leaders can’t rise above the limitations of their character. While the late John Wooden, a famed American college basketball coach, believed that though ability or competence may get you to the top, it takes character to keep you there. For this reason, leaders might be able to get away with focusing on and playing to their strengths while managing and delegating their weaknesses in areas of competencies, they can’t afford to do this with regards to their character strengths and weaknesses. They simply can’t delegate away their character weaknesses. They need to work hard on their character flaws by spending more time on them than their character strengths.

Leaders need to spend more time playing to their strengths in the area of competence as well as spend just as more time working on their weaknesses in the area of character if they desire long term success.

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One Response to The Two Lenses of Leadership

  1. Ogechi

    I like the way you’ve put these two concepts together, Prof. Competency enables Character, so they both have to be addressed and improved up. I definitely agree that successful leaders have gotta be ready to do what it takes to maximize their strengths, I also like that you emphasize that there needs to be time given to work on one’s weakness for a more established long term success. There’s always going to be a new mark for a leader to hit.

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