One-third of leaders not open about personal strengths, weaknesses: Survey

Lack of openness can damage credibility, compromise leadership
||Last Updated: 09/11/2012

Even though all leadership development programs encourage honest feedback, many bosses are not very open with colleagues about their own strengths and weaknesses, according to a recent survey.

More than one-third (37 per cent) of employees said their leaders lack openness around personal strengths and weaknesses, found the survey by management consulting firm Healthy Companies Intenational which polled 2,700 employees across North America, about 270 of which were from Canada.

“It’s surely a truism, but one of the most common failings of senior people is their seeming blindness to their own shortcomings,” said Stephen Parker, president of Healthy Companies International. “The blindness may be due to a lack of self-awareness, or a masquerade to hide insecurity, or even a misunderstanding of what effective leadership is all about. Whatever the basis, a boss’s lack of introspection hurts job performance as well as the organization’s ability to function well.”

If a boss pretends to be good at everything, it sends the message that other people aren’t needed, and the boss to loses his credibility, said Parker.

“An unwillingness to admit shortcomings may tend to cancel out actual strengths. If the boss is all bluster and can’t distinguish between what he or she is good at, then the person’s leadership is compromised. Instead of being open they just end up trumpeting their strengths,” he said.

The ability to recognize limitations along with abilities and qualities is at the core of sound leadership development, he said. Great leaders accept criticism and maximize personal strengths.

“They also manage their weaknesses by building out their teams with people who are good at what they aren’t,” said Parker. “That’s why successful leadership development programs empower high-potential candidates so they know their blind spots and at the same time acknowledge their core skills.”

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