Can Your Strengths Have a Dark Side?

For this article by Jo Ilfeld, Executive Leadership Coach on strengths the image shows two arrows one representing strength, the other weakness.

In all my years of doing 360s, one thing that I often see is how someone’s strengths can have a dark side that can come back to derail them or bite them in the behind.

One of the most common things I hear almost every single time is that someone’s growth opportunity is usually an area where they are using too much of their strength. While it’s easy to believe that there can never be too much of a good thing, the truth is that overusing one’s strengths can actually become a liability. For instance, someone who is fearless may end up disregarding social cues and alienating people, while someone who is thoughtful may end up in analysis paralysis and not make decisions quickly enough.

This is why it’s essential to strike a balance between using your strengths and being mindful of their potential downsides. As a leader, it’s crucial to understand your team’s strengths and weaknesses and help them find that balance too.

There are a lot of leading schools of thought that talk about strength-based leadership and I think that there is a lot to be said for these things. Strengths-based leadership is a popular approach and for a good reason. When people are encouraged to work from their strengths, they’re more engaged in their work, they feel happier and are more fulfilled.

What I worry about is that sometimes if you’re focused so much on people’s strengths, you’re not looking at what the dark side can be of overusing that strength. So, whether you’re an HR professional supporting leaders, a boss giving feedback to your team, or someone trying to advance your own career, it’s crucial to understand your strengths and their potential pitfalls. Take a look at the strength that you have and what will happen if you do too much of it.

Understanding and leveraging your strengths is crucial to success, but it’s equally important to be mindful of their potential drawbacks.

Do you know what the one thing growing leaders need is? Read more here

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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