If you’re starting your own business or leading a team, you have some level of confidence in your abilities, and it’s only natural for you to gravitate toward your strengths in those areas.
Related: 7 Telltale Signs of a Weak Leader
However, it’s also important to recognize your weaknesses as a leader. If you do, you can learn to make up for them; if you don’t, you become even more vulnerable to their damaging effects.
Why weaknesses matter.
Why is it so important to recognize your own weaknesses? For starters, it gives you something to work on. In chess, if you’re good at end game strategies but your middle game is weak, you won’t get any better unless you specifically target mid-game strategies to improve. While it’s true that specialization is often better than generalization for a team of people, when it comes to leadership, you need to be well-rounded.
For example, a good leader should be one who communicates effectively, has high emotional intelligence and is decisive. If you’re missing even one of these traits, you’ll be less effective, so it pays to balance your abilities by calling out and improving your areas of weakness.
There’s only so far that this strategy can take you, however. No matter how much experience you gain or how much you improve, you’re always going to have weaknesses in your abilities. Thankfully, just being aware of them can improve your performance; the idea is to compensate for them in other ways. For example, if you know you have a tendency to lose your temper, you could choose an office away from the team so you can vent your frustrations in private.
That sounds good, but how can you learn to recognize your weaknesses?
Identify your strengths.
It may seem strange at first, but strengths and weaknesses are often interdependent; rather than thinking about them as separate elements, learn to see them as two sides of the same coin. For example, if you’re the type of person who likes to take charge and direct other people, you might also be prone to exhibiting excessive control, or micromanaging. If you’re the type of person who’s especially empathetic and understanding, you might also be easily taken advantage of.
Because of this, one of the most effective ways to look for weaknesses is to first understand the full range of your strengths. What are the downsides to your most positive, beneficial qualities as a leader? What kind of negative sides could they have?
Of course you can’t get far on your own. Your perspective is limited by your own experience, so turning to someone with more experience can illuminate aspects of your character you didn’t know existed.
Seek mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders, and ask them to evaluate your actions, decisions and behaviors from a distance. Chances are, they’ll have seen similar behaviors in themselves or in others, and will be able to provide guidance on any weaknesses associated with them.
Ask for feedback.
The best way to find out whether your marketing campaign is working is to ask for feedback (or analyze user feedback through user actions). You can analyze your own performance in the same way -- and straight from the source. Talk to your employees, and ask them how they feel about your leadership style.
You’ll need to establish an environment where your employees feel comfortable giving criticism without fear of retaliation or consequences, so you may want to collect this information anonymously and from a third party you trust. If there are issues with the way you handle things, they’ll be able to identify them for your review.
Witness more leaders in action.
Leaders of the past have much to teach us about the merits and flaws of different approaches. If you want to learn more about different sides of leadership in flux, study the political, historical and business leaders of the past in detail.
You can also work closely with other entrepreneurs and business leaders in the present -- your peers. In fact, you may be able to help them as much as they help you.
It's not about perfection.
Throughout your course of finding, improving and/or compensating for your weaknesses, try not to become obsessive in your pursuits. Even the most successful leaders in business, politics and other pursuits have been riddled with flaws and weaknesses.
Perfection doesn’t exist, and chasing it is only going to add stress and frustration to your life. Instead, work to see your weaknesses as fundamental aspects of your character as a leader, and do what you can to mitigate their effects on your performance.