Strong and Weak Leaders

Strong and Weak LeadersThis is our fourth in a series of posts from the Book Rapper issue Authentic. It’s derived from Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones’ book Why Should Anyone Be Led By You that discusses what it takes to be an authentic leader. Previously in this series: Self-Leadership – Know Yourself, Show Yourself

Strong and Weak Leaders

Typically, we’re told “to be a good leader we have to be strong”. This implies hiding or eliminating your weaknesses. Yet, it is this combination of strengths AND weaknesses that make you a ‘real’ person. And, an authentic leader. Here we explore why, when and how to reveal your weaknesses to be real for your followers.

[Tweet “To be real, a true leader reveals some weakness #leadership”]

What’s Your Purpose?

Leadership is only real in the pursuit of something. A purpose. A mission. A cause. Otherwise, you don’t need it. And, any pretence to displaying it is false.

Great leaders are driven by an unbending sense of purpose. And they display their true selves when they show:

  • What they care about
  • Why they care about and
  • How they believe the organisation can achieve it’s stated goals.

If leaders didn’t care, they’d be detached from their efforts. And, followers can smell that a mile away.

Being a great leader is like being a great parent. You may need tough empathy where you give people what they need rather than what they want. It’s more than role playing. It’s living up to the obligations and expectations of the job.

The paradox is when you take on a task that is bigger than any one person, you’ll naturally show more of yourself. The challenge is to show enough of yourself and not too much. Reveal your strengths as well as weaknesses.

[Tweet “You only need leadership if you’re pursuing something #purpose”]

Reveal enough

Here’s four reasons why we don’t reveal enough of ourselves.

  1. Most management and leadership recipe books presume we are all extroverts.
  2. Introverts are over-represented at the top of organisations and naturally they don’t tend to reveal themselves. This can set the tone for others.
  3. In the Knowledge Economy, the winner is often seen as the one with the most expertise. Technical or task orientation is favoured over interpersonal skills and people focus. Many specialists would rather stay in their comfortable and specific knowledge zone rather than deal with the messy and generalized business of leading others.
  4. Lately, middle managers have been squeezed by numerous organisational changes. This makes others cautious about committing to the risky path of becoming a leader.

[Tweet “Four reasons leaders don’t reveal enough of themselves #leadership”]

Leaders with Purpose

Six suggestions for leading with purpose:

  1. Ensure your job is something you care about.
  2. Be in touch with your values and purpose – every single day.
  3. Ensure your weaknesses are not fatal flaws. Take action if your flaws are central to performing your tasks. It’s easier to spot extreme fatal flaws than the small day-to-day judgements.
  4. Don’t invent mock weaknesses – they must be real to be authentic.
  5. Know which weakness to reveal, and when.
  6. By revealing a weakness you also show others how they can help. Accept this help when it’s offered.

[Tweet “Six simple ways to lead with purpose #leadership #purpose”]

The Weak Leader

We are not saying that leadership is built primarily around individual weakness. When shown too often, a weakness becomes a defining characteristic, not a tolerable exception.

COMMENT: Review your leadership… Are you too strong, too weak or just right?


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