ARLINGTON, VA,September 10, 2012 – Even though all leadership development programs encourage honest feedback, as many as one-third of bosses are not very open with colleagues about their own strengths and weaknesses, according to a survey by management consulting firm Healthy Companies International.
The company surveyed 2,700 employees throughout North America to explore the behaviors of immediate supervisors. Twenty personal characteristics were tracked, and openness about one’s strengths and weaknesses was found to be wanting in the boss by 37% of survey respondents.
“It’s surely a truism, but one of the most common failings of senior people is their seeming blindness to their own shortcomings,” Stephen Parker, President of Healthy Companies International. “The blindness may be due to a lack of self-awareness, or a masquerade to hide insecurity, or even a misunderstanding of what effective leadership is all about. Whatever the basis, a boss’s lack of introspection hurts job performance as well as the organization’s ability to function well.”
“If a boss pretends to be good at everything the message is conveyed that other people aren’t needed,” said Parker. “And by never admitting to inadequacies the boss only loses credibility. In fact, an unwillingness to admit shortcomings may tend to cancel out actual strengths. If the boss is all bluster and can’t distinguish between what he or she is good at, then the person’s leadership is compromised. Instead of being open they just end up trumpeting their strengths.”
According to Parker, at the core of sound leadership development is the ability to recognize limitations along with abilities and qualities. “Only by doing so may leaders learn to make the most of their own assets and to rely astutely on others. There can be great power in sharing one’s humanity and in being open about oneself.”
Great leaders, explained Parker, accept criticism and maximize personal strengths. “They’re acutely aware of their strengths and differentiators and actually seek to leverage them. They also manage their weaknesses by building out their teams with people who are good at what they aren’t. That’s why successful leadership development programs empower high-potential candidates so they know their blind spots and at the same time acknowledge their core skills.”
Bosses who avoid this process risk being oblivious of how they are perceived, warned Parker. “Because they’ve achieved a position of authority they may fall into the trap of believing their own myth. They may be full of themselves and unable to listen to colleagues. Lack of introspection can surely be destructive not only to the person’s effectiveness but to everyone else’s too.”
Parker observed that many bosses become isolated and get little candid feedback. “It’s the unusual leader who invites honest feedback. The opposite tends to prevail where people don’t wish to hurt the boss’s feelings. So bosses get surrounded by ‘yes’ people and remain unaware of where they fall short.”
About Healthy Companies
Founded in 1988 and based in Arlington, VA, Healthy Companies International is a leadership consulting and research firm that helps chief executive officers and their teams build healthy, high-performance organizations. As a trusted partner and thought leader, the firm maintains continuing dialogue with CEOs and regularly contributes to books and papers on leadership growth, change management, communication strategy, executive coaching and performance improvement.