The prevailing wisdom in leadership development says that we develop our strengths. Our challenges, some say, will remain challenges no matter how much we try to change.
Yet after 10 years of study, our research points in a different direction. We have concluded that versatility—having a well-stocked repertoire of yin-yang skills, which you neither overdo nor underdo—accounts for half of what separates the most highly regarded leaders from the least well-regarded leaders. We've observed the most successful leaders modulate their best skills and learn how to apply them only when they're needed. Most of us can readily understand this intuitively. Yet In an unspoken way, the feedback tools of the day promote the idea that more of a skill is always more of a good thing.
As a result, some management development tools lead troubled managers astray. For example, we see the direct leader who verges on abrasiveness, the inclusive leader who tries too hard to please everybody, the operational leader who gets lost in the details, and so on. Most management feedback tools would simply tell them they rate high on directness, inclusiveness, or operations. They don’t get the warning that they may be practicing a tendency--a strength in certain contexts--at too high a level.
We were recently fortunate to have an article in Harvard Business Review
on this topic. Also, our work is featured in a new book, "The Perils of Accentuating the Positive
." If you're in the leadership coaching and development field, we hope you'll check these out.