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VOL. 126 | NO. 130 | Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Susan Drake

Turn Weaknesses To Strengths

Susan Drake

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I was reading in Psychology Today about a new book, “A First-Rate Madness,” whose author, Nassir Ghaemi, describes historical figures who exhibited symptoms of mental illness. Among them were Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln, who, according to the Tufts psychiatrist, had “an eye for assessing tough situations because of their ‘depressive realism.’”

Others he discusses are John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose high-energy personalities helped them recover from challenges. Unfortunately, they turned to womanizing as an outlet for their excess energy.

While respecting those who suffer from mental illness, something is obvious in this list of celebrated leaders: There is a positive and a negative side to each of us.

Leaders’ behavior affects others in a significant way. They have power over employees’ work universe, and what happens at work can spill over and affect people at home. Leaders have a responsibility to look in the mirror and recognize if they’re taking certain habits to the extreme, turning them into a vice rather than a virtue.

Self assessment isn’t an easy task because it requires that you question your beliefs as well as your practices. I’ve seen bosses who thought that raging at employees demonstrated strength, and others who prided themselves on their ability to win at politics. They may not have been malicious people, but they didn’t understand the havoc those habits might wreak.

No doubt you want to be a leader who inspires confidence, trust and a desire to perform in an outstanding way. Are you achieving that, or are you practicing vices rather than virtues? Complete these sentences the way you think your employees might:

When my boss is angry, she …

If people disagree with my boss, he …

When I do a good job, my boss …

I can tell when my boss is under stress because she …

If my boss loses an argument, he …

If we fail to meet a goal or deadline, my boss …

I look up to my boss. (Yes or no)

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being poor and 10 being great, in honesty and integrity, I rate my boss…

Do you feel good about the answers? Now, how about some feedback? Ask employees to answer the same questions anonymously. Do their interpretations of your actions match yours? If not, you clearly have an inaccurate picture of how you look to others. And it may be time to question your beliefs about how a good leader behaves.

If you or they indicated bad behavior, you’ll need to do something about it. Perhaps you could benefit from a leadership class. For a specific shortcoming, such as flying off the handle or playing politics, find a class or a book dealing with anger management, confrontation or negotiating skills. Ask to be mentored by someone who demonstrates qualities you admire. Turn weaknesses into strengths and reap the rewards of being a leader who is remarkable for his virtues, not vices.

Susan Drake is President of Spellbinders Internal and External Marketing. Contact her at susand@spellbindersinc.com. Contact her at susand@spellbindersinc.com.

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