[November 18, 2014] Well known to leaders – used to living open lives – is the unremitting fact that people will see their weaknesses … and people will also comment on those weaknesses. While this may come as a surprise, the passion of the commentators is a twist that strikes leaders like a bolt from the blue. Leaders must know and have some level of comfort with the reality that people will see your weaknesses, remark on them, and vocally pass critical judgment.
We’ve been told all our lives that “no one is perfect” and that “we all make mistakes.” Such is the outgrowth of human beings and their flaws – their weaknesses. And, knowing this, leaders should be mindful of their criticism of the weaknesses of others. There is a fine line between a leader who can be confident in their position and one who is conceited. Best those leaders take great care in their own statements on the weaknesses of others and instill in themselves a sense of respect for others.
How does a leader deal with the fact that others see their weaknesses and are vocal about them? First, it is a good idea to know your own weaknesses. This means also having done something about them. It’s pretty clear that if a leader does not know their own weaknesses, then that leader will also not be clear on their strengths and the value of that leader will be questionable.
Second, the leader needs to be completely honest about those weaknesses. Some say that it is best to have a large dose of humility. One of the best leaders I knew used his weaknesses and mistakes in a humorous way to help get himself liked and respected. He became one of the boys, so to speak. Hiding or denying weaknesses, as well as attempting to justify them are big mistakes. Weaknesses cannot be hidden. By not being open the leader exposes himself to justifiable ridicule.
Leadership at any level means people see you. Expect them to see everything you do. To assume a weakness or mistake can be hidden is unrealistic and can be counterproductive. Use weaknesses to advance your relationships with others and improve on that weakness. Remember that someone trying to improve themselves will always garner some level of respect.
The lesson for leaders is not to be too amazed by this. Surprisingly, leaders continue to be caught off guard. Be aware of your weaknesses, know your boundaries, and be sure you are not suffering from a case of hubris.
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