Did our strengths get us to this point of weakness?

Dr. Randall P. White, Lecturer at Duke Corporate Education in London & Principal of Executive Development Group

Reckless is an understatement. Barrelling forward with our greatest strength—growth at any cost—may have led to our greatest weakness as the US economy nose-dives. In our haste to deliver bottom line results, organisations have adopted a vetting process for leadership based on mining pre-existing strengths of individuals. This often succeeds with amazing short-term gains but just as often crashes in a cloud of conflict, miscalculations and, at times, questionable ethics.

To participate in this environment, individual managers have emboldened themselves with the get-rich-quick bravado of ‘find your strengths and put them to work’ like wildcat prospectors. Which leads to a topically apt analogy: the strengths movement has successfully framed leadership as a finite fossil fuel rather than a renewable agricultural resource. ‘Growing’ leaders, rather than ‘mining’ leaders, is a longer process, but it has been demonstrated to provide more effective leaders, better succession, less derailment and more engaged and fulfilled managers and executives.

Not all corporations have eschewed longitudinal development and executive education. So we don’t need so much a return to psychologically supported, self-awareness-based development, but rather a broader application of it.

The full article, bibliography, and list of proactive suggestions is printed in Business Leadership Review.