Leaders can overplay their strengths and may be tempted to do so despite the costs and consequences. When you overuse your strengths, you risk getting stuck in your comfort zone, becoming a lopsided leader, and falling victim to arrogance.

Leadership coaching and development are intricate, complex processes we tend to oversimplify. 360-degree surveys seek to pinpoint leaders’ strengths and weaknesses. Zealous coaches rush to maximize strengths while addressing or marginalizing weaknesses.

As a process of helping leaders become self-aware, emotionally intelligent, and more effective, leadership coaching is everything but simple. Strengths and weaknesses hardly describe a leader’s abilities and potential.

Effective leadership is a delicate balancing act because strengths can become weaknesses in the blink of an eye if someone abuses them.

You can turn your strengths into weaknesses. 

How a Strength Can Become a Weakness

It is human nature to seek comfort and satisfaction. When we play to our strengths, we ensure the best odds for success. We like to play to our strengths, and we are comfortable doing it. In the context of intelligent leadership, overplaying your strengths can have negative consequences.

  • Abusing your strengths will turn them into weaknesses.
  • Constantly playing to your strengths can make your leadership lopsided and cost you your job.

How do strengths turn into weaknesses? You may be a bright, emotionally intelligent leader who understands connotations perfectly. You figure out your partners and your peers; you understand their fears, frustrations, and expectations.

Not many people can keep up with you if you are in this position. If you fail to understand your strengths and how to balance them, you risk getting frustrated with your colleagues. Being impatient and overly demanding with others is a leadership weakness.

The Costs of Overplaying Your Strengths

Lopsided leadership is a consequence of overusing your strengths. Relying excessively on your strengths will deprive you of the chance to improve your weaknesses and act optimally in certain situations.

If your strength is to get everyone on the same page, you may take too long to act. In some situations, that may rob you of opportunities.

Locking Yourself in Your Comfort Zone

Playing to your strengths means never leaving your comfort zone. For leaders lacking self-awareness and introspection, using their strengths can become addictive. Such leaders may constantly seek to act on their own terms. This may cause them to miss or avoid opportunities that deny their advantages.

Overreliance on Strengths Can Be a Liability in a Crisis

Crises are out-of-the-ordinary situations requiring leaders to step out of their comfort zones. Leaders reluctant to relinquish their positions of control and strength cannot react to crises optimally.

A lack of flexibility is a fatal leadership flaw.

Executive leadership values flexibility, inclusion, and self-awareness. These leadership attributes allow top-level executives to seek counsel when they feel overwhelmed or outmatched.

Overusing Your Strengths Can Lead to Arrogance 

Like every inner and outer-core leadership competency, humility and confidence exist in a delicate balance. When leaders consistently play to their strengths, they can upset this balance. Arrogance is an extreme form of confidence that can grow toxic quickly.

Arrogant leadership with a know-it-all attitude results in employee disempowerment, disengagement, a toxic workplace, and fraying productivity.

The Trick is to Find Your Balance

Striking a balance between playing to your strengths and showing vulnerability is not easy. Getting to the position where you can start working on this balance requires you to understand the roots of your behaviors. You have to be self-aware enough to look at your behaviors objectively.

This is where executive coaching helps. An executive coaching professional can give you an alternative view of your leadership behaviors. A good coach can open your eyes to subtle faults by asking the right questions.

Without analyzing your leadership objectively, you may think overusing your strengths as something positive.

  • Recognizing the problem. To mend this leadership flaw, you need to recognize that you are overdoing certain behaviors. Take a look at your 360-degree assessment and scrutinize your behavior with the highest score. Ask yourself if you’re overdoing it.
  • Redirecting your strengths. Once you understand how you’re abusing your strengths, counter your tendencies and remap your proclivities. It takes willpower and out-of-the-box thinking, but the results are worth the effort.

The optimal use of your leadership strengths requires a balance you must set for yourself. The dilemma of the optimal use of virtue is not a simple one. Leadership or business coaching professionals can help you find and apply your balance.


Back to blog