Monday, August 18, 2014

Going Overboard in Emphasizing Your Strengths

overdoing stengthsEveryone knows that successful leaders discover which of their strengths best meet their organizations’ needs, then capitalize on those strengths. They learn not to waste time trying to fix their weaknesses; rather, they surround themselves with complementary strengths to build the ideal team.

But if you go too far emphasizing your leadership strengths, it might actually hurt the organization overall and leave those to whom you answer feeling very dissatisfied. Overplaying a strength can lead to diminished capacity on the opposite pole. For example, press too hard with new ideas and creative innovation, and you may falter in the orderly execution; and operations may fall into chaos.

Reining in your forcefulness gives opportunities to empower and nurture those who work under you. Controlling visionary creativity gives stable operations a chance to thrive. Finding a healthy balance requires tempering your natural strengths.

Leaders come in various types and varieties, but in the end you can generally categorize them on two scales. The first scale describes what the leader chooses to spend most of his or her time on: strategic planning vs. operational excellence. The other scale describes the leader’s style: forceful or supportive.

Where do you as a manager excel? Do you like to focus your efforts on positioning the practice for the future? Or would you rather spend time analyzing and improving the systems that make the practice perform optimally from day to day? Once you figure out where your strengths lie, you can concentrate your efforts in that direction.

But if you neglect the opposite end of the spectrum, the practice will suffer. If you’re a visionary who spends most of his or her time looking down the road, you risk missing opportunities to improve operations. The office will feel chaotic and unpredictable, collections will flag, and patient schedules will become unmanageable. Concentrate on doing things right from day to day, and you may find the organization overtaken by developments in the market around you; your “strategic planning” becomes more remedial and reactive than positive and proactive.

What about your leadership style? Some managers tend toward forcefulness—that is, exercising influence and control based on their own intellect and energy. Others lean toward empowerment, or creating conditions for other people to contribute and excel. Either extreme brings inherent dangers.
A forceful leader may actually improve work output, but often at the expense of vitality and self-motivation. And unless you’ve been blessed with nearly divine omniscience, your practice’s knowledge and skills will then be greatly limited. Workers who thrive on teamwork and group thinking will soon leave.

At the other extreme, an empowering leader risks paralyzing the entire operation. Decisions become nearly impossible; staff problems go uncontested; everything bogs down.

Figure out your strengths, and concentrate your efforts to capitalize on them, but overdoing them will turn them into weaknesses. There’s a fine line between “she’s a strong and competent decision- maker,” and “there goes that tyrannical shrew!”

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photo credit: joeduty via photopin cc