Seven overused leadership strengths

Knowing your strengths allows you to capitalize on them, and use them to be a better leader. Who wouldn’t want that?

Yet, there are strengths that can be overused. When that happens, they can undermine your best efforts at becoming a great leader.

Through years of interviewing stakeholders and hundreds of leaders, I’ve gathered some information about some of the most common strengths that can be overused.

These are some that you will want to pay attention to, assuring that you don’t cross over the line from a strength to something that will undermine your best intentions:

Intellect: You may have reached a pinnacle in your leadership by being knowledgeable and achieving results because of your brilliance. However, when this strength is overused, it can cause you to become rigid and closed to new learning. You might be able to recognize this as an overused strength when you shut down to other’s ideas and begin to feel like you’re the only one who knows how to do something. Open up and listen to others, and you might learn something new.

Trust: Trusting others fully to do what needs to be done is a great trait. But when this strength is overused, you might notice that people are taking advantage of your trusting nature and not meeting deadlines, or that they are fumbling and making mistakes more than is necessary. This may mean they need more from you: clarification of your expectations or more guidance in the work they are doing will help.

Creativity: Organizations are craving creative leaders, and perhaps you have enjoyed a career and promotions that capitalize on your ingenuity. Yet when this strength is overused, you may always be seeking out the “best new thing” and not finishing what you started. This can throw your teams into disarray when they don’t have a consistent path to follow. Morale can suffer when direction changes too often and nothing seems to be completed. Stop, and think through what you need to complete before starting in a new direction.

Drive: Almost every high-performing and high-potential leader out there is driven, and it’s been a key strength that gets them the next promotion. Nonetheless, when this strength is overused, a leader can set their sights on the goal while leaving attention to people behind. The people doing the work can then feel like they are pressured to achieve the goal without their buy-in. Chaos can result, and turnover may be rampant. Set realistic goals and make sure you leave plenty of time for discussion with your team to adapt and embrace them.

Confidence: Confidence levels in leaders lie along a spectrum, like other strengths. You may not be confident enough (yet) or you may have just enough of it. But if you are overconfident, you may tend to deny your flaws, and you may not listen to others when they push back on your ideas. What can result is poor decision making because you are confident you are right. A whole cascade of these poor decisions can lead to can lead to your failure as a leader. Involve others, listen to them, and be open to the possibility that your decisions might not be the best.

Humility: Almost everyone loves a humble leader; they are considered the personification of servant leadership and are always willing to give credit to others. But when humility is overused, you can become invisible. You may also feel like you don’t get credit for your success, and that promotions are passing you by. It’s possible to find ways to tout your successes without appearing egotistical; find someone who can give you some ideas on how to do that.

Interpersonal skills: Who would have thought that a leader with great people skills could actually overuse them? Leaders who do so may be spending too much time and effort building networks and kissing babies. When overused, there can be so much focus on interaction that the actual work that needs to get done lies fallow because enough attention isn’t paid to it. Make sure you balance your network building with assuring that work actually gets done.

You should be aware of, and use your strengths. The caution here is to not overuse them and cross the line to becoming less effective.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

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