In the June 2010 issue of Ignite, Madeleine Homan Blanchard discusses how Leadership Strengths Are a Double-Edged Sword. She goes on to explain that positive characteristics such as optimism, confidence, and intelligence can turn into delusion, arrogance, and unhealthy competitiveness if left unchecked. In her work with highly successful executives, this crossover from strengths to weaknesses can be subtle, and usually occurs over the course of years. It can be especially hard to identify early in an executive’s career because the weaknesses that derail so many careers later in life are just shadow versions of the same attributes that helped executives succeed earlier.
The key, according to Homan Blanchard, is to maintain a healthy self-awareness of the way you are perceived by others. To help with that, Madeleine recommends four strategies.
- Create an imaginary “self observation person” and place them on your left shoulder. Give this imaginary advisor one important task. Anytime you feel yourself about to speak or respond to someone and there is some extra emotion behind it, have this advisor check in to ask, “Is this about your need to be heard, or is this in the best interest of the other person and you are saying it because it absolutely needs to be said?”
- Get feedback. Homan Blanchard recommends that leaders check in with colleagues (and direct reports especially) every once in a while to get a reading on how they are doing. Madeleine especially likes three classic questions and recommends executives keep them top of mind: What should I start doing to be more helpful to you as a leader? What should I stop doing? Is there anything you think I should know?
- Surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to challenge you. Let people know that you want to engage in useful debate. Encourage people to speak up when something you say doesn’t make sense or might not be the right way to go.
- Consider working with a coach who can provide a reality check and keep you honest. It’s important to have someone who will call you out when you are deceiving yourself.
To read more about some of the ways that leaders inadvertently limit their effectiveness, be sure to check out the entire Ignite article here. Also be sure to see the information about a free webinar that Homan Blanchard is conducting on June 16, Leaders: Avoid These Fatal Flaws