Even in a booming economy, half of your managers will fail. It's not due to technical incompetence, but to an inability to effectively work with other people and an equally dismal capacity to adapt to change.
So why have we allowed so many managers to test out of these critical aspects of leadership growth and development?
Because we've been deluded into thinking that an executive's strengths are all that matters. Now is a great time to reevaluate leadership development with an emphasis on "development" rather than mere "strengths."
Since the 2001 publication of "Now Discover Your Strengths" by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, based on opinion research from Gallup, "strengths-based" leadership has become the buzzword of choice among gurus and their acolytes.
This over-reliance on executives' strengths without addressing weaknesses manifests in a leadership approach that values immediate gains over strategic, long-term stability and growth. And the past two quarters have shown us how painful the results can be.
According to Buckingham, weakness is the baggage that hobbles our progress and should be left behind so we can sally forth with our strengths...to "do what feels good and to flourish."
Who, then, carries all that lost luggage? In a workplace where we know leadership effectiveness is defined by being able to live with other people and roll with the ever-changing punches the dynamic global economy throws at us, strengths-based leadership creates an entitled class of executives that dumps unresolved weaknesses on everyone else in the organization.
This isn't just about hurting people's feelings. Over-reliance on strengths weakens organizations in several ways.
First, every organization, large or small, public or private, has inherent gaps in its talent. By allowing leaders to focus on their strengths, the gaps only widen. It's become popular to staff around weaknesses, but this has limited applicability and excessive cost. How realistic is it to assign someone else the role of soothing the bruised feelings left in the wake of a technical genius with rough elbows?
Second, overdoing strengths leads to executive derailment. The number one cause of derailment is relationship issues. Leaders are drawn to the strengths movement because it gives them a pass for their shortcomings. And it gives talent management professionals permission to avoid confronting leaders with their weaknesses or pushing leaders out of their self-satisfied comfort zones and into new and uncertain arenas of learning. Leaders stop growing and they continue negative behaviors.
Finally, since the time of Heraclitus, we've known that the only constant is change. But the pace and degree of change has hit warp speed. Resting on the strengths that worked brilliantly yesterday is the strategy that allows the Chinese to zoom by us in manufacturing, the Japanese to zip past us in automobiles, the Danes to leapfrog us in alternative energy, and even the east Africans to outfox us in creative but sustainable lending. The day we stop learning is the day we start dying.
Businesses that realize this now will gain a significant advantage out of the current chaos. Well-rounded leaders who understand themselves and know how to complement their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses are magnets for well-rounded talent and like-minded team players. Teams of self-aware learners, eager to pull together collectively to rise above individual limits and adapt to new and unknown market shifts, will rule Economy 3.0. And with the economic shakedown that's happening around us, there's plenty of top talent to be recruited.
Rob Kaiser is a partner with Kaplan Devries and editor of "The Perils of Accentuating the Positive."