Last session, I shared about what most people don’t realize about their strengths and encouraged you to focus more on your strengths than weaknesses. Today, I want to continue that discussion, and share about how we can use our weaknesses to enhance our leadership.
For most of us, we magnify our strengths and downplay or avoid our weaknesses. The reason, of course, is pride and insecurity. We don’t want others to see that we have weaknesses.
The problem with that approach, though, is that everyone has weaknesses. Admitting them doesn’t make you weak. It actually shows great maturity and strength.
I want to encourage you to lean into your weaknesses. Here’s why: if we avoid our weaknesses than they will grow and can distract from our strengths and may even disqualify us from great opportunities. I learned this the hard way during my first year of playing college basketball.
A Leadership Lesson From My College Basketball Days
Aside from my overall competitiveness and strong work ethic, my best skill in basketball was the mid-range jump shot. (Of course nowadays with the 3 point explosion, the mid-range jumper has become a lost art…but I digress…) My weakest skill was ball handling, which is ironic since I played point guard most of my life.
In high school, I was able to compensate for this weakness. I was quicker than most other players, so instead of working on my ball handling skills, I simply dribbled around them. And I became a pretty decent small school basketball player.
Then I went on to play college basketball. And my weakness was exposed. I wasn’t quicker than most guards at that level, and my lack of ball handling skills was magnified. To make matters worse, my weak ball handling skills starting affecting my number one strength, jump shots. I couldn’t handle the ball well enough to create or get to my mid-range jump shot.
So what did I do? I spent the entire off-season focusing on ball handling. This doesn’t mean that I gave up shooting the ball. I still practiced and took a lot of jump shots in the gym, but I also spent quite bit of effort on improving my ball handling.
What happened going into the next season? I was significantly better at ball handling. This didn’t make me an all-star. I still rode the bench most of the year and was by no means a great ball handler. But I was able to get those skills to par so they didn’t distract or hinder my jump shooting ability.
That’s what the really successful people do.
The Power in Weaknesses
The most successful people know their areas of strength and weakness. They focus most of their effort in their strength zone and spend the rest of their time getting their weaknesses to par or average so they don’t distract from their weaknesses.
Weaknesses have the power to overshadow our strengths if we don’t get them to par level. All of us will either be admired for our strengths or criticized for our weaknesses.
Weaknesses also have another power. Others can learn from our weaknesses, if we let them. I believe we should live in our strengths but teach from our weaknesses. That may seem counterintuitive, but I think this story might shed some light…
One of the best hitters to ever play the game of baseball is Ted Williams. Late in his career, there was a young player on the team who was struggling with hitting. During batting practice, Ted said to his younger teammate, “Just look at the seams.” Everybody who heard this was astonished. They couldn’t believe that he could see the seams. You see, Ted didn’t realize how great his eyesight was. It’s rumored that on a good day he could even see the commissioner’s signature. Most people struggle to see any detail on a baseball from a distance.
I’m not saying that Ted Williams couldn’t teach a thing or two about hitting. But because he has a natural ability or strength, especially with his eyesight being so sharp, it was more difficult for him to teach in that area.
Or we could revisit my basketball story for another example. I can definitely teach young basketball players about shooting techniques, fundamentals, and tricks of the trade. But you know what skill I’m better at teaching? Ball handling. I spent so many hours struggling to get the weakness to par that I’m actually a much better teacher at that skill.
When a leader shares out of his or weakness, it is powerful. People remember those stories and illustrations much better than when you talk about a success. The reason is, as pastor and author Carey Nieuwhof puts it, “People admire your strengths, but they identify with your weaknesses.”
If you want to harness the power of your weakness, get it to par and teach from it.
To get started, try the following two action items:
- Identify three of your most significant areas of weakness. Just like we did with identifying our strengths, it can be a good idea to ask two or three people close to you. At times, we can overlook or diminish our weaknesses, and others may have a clearer view they can share with you.
- Create a plan to get your weaknesses to par or average so you can focus and live in your strengths. (This may even lead to an opportunity to teach from your weaknesses, while you operate in your strengths.)