Identify Your Leader’s Weakness

A servant leader builds a team that balances strengths and weaknesses. As servant leaders we must recognize weakness in our boss as a responsibility of our own.

Leadership Weakness Depicted Through Arm WrestlingOver the years, I discovered a shocking truth about bosses: they are actually human! Hard to imagine, I know. And, it turns out, part of being human includes possessing weaknesses.

In fact, I’ve noticed that my best bosses held weaknesses in my areas of strength. This is a classic sign of a servant leader – they build a team that balances strengths and weaknesses. I wrote about this in “Forgiveness for Balance“. As good employees and servant leaders, it is important we recognize weakness in our bosses as a responsibility of our own. In order to take on these responsibilities though, we must first identify the weaknesses.

How to Identify a Weakness In Your Boss

Identifying weaknesses in your boss sounds easy. However, servant leaders must often make decisions we do not like. Therefore, it is important to distinguish a genuine weakness from decisions we do not like. Here are some tips for identifying weaknesses in your boss that you can strengthen:

1. Frustration

Frustration should be considered a warning sign for both you and your boss. This works in two ways. First, if your boss seems frustrated with a particular situation, it may be due to a weakness. For example, if your boss is unable to effectively influence someone, you may offer suggestions or assist by influencing your own peers. Second, if you are frustrated with your boss in a particular situation, it may be because the boss is not strong enough in the area to be effective. In this situation, you may be able assume additional responsibility in the area and provide greater success.

Probably one of the best known examples of this working relationship in Herb Kelleher, former CEO, and his assistant-turned-president, Colleen Barrett of Southwest Airlines. In describing how the two began working together, Barrett said:

I discovered Herb. Really and truly. I laugh about it. I found this man. He needed help. It was clear. I was going to be his savior.

2. Assessment Surveys

Whether it is 360 feedback or a management assessment form, surveys about the performance of you and your boss can both be very helpful. When you are filling out feedback on your  boss, note the areas you identify as their weakest and help fill these gaps in the coming year. Second, in your own surveys, identify the strengths others see in you. Your strengths should be leveraged to help others in those areas. As Clifton explains in “Now Discover Your Strengths“, corporate HR policies focus too much on fixing weaknesses in the individual. We should focus more on leveraging our strengths to the greatest extent possible.

3. Listen For Dislikes

Last, but certainly not least, your leaders are likely to tell you their weaknesses. The best leaders will specifically name them as weaknesses, but others may require discernment. These revelations often come in the form of statements that begin with “I don’t like…”, “I’m not the best at…” or “I prefer having someone else do…”. Whatever follows statements like these are typically a weakness of the leader. They may be fully capable, but the lack of enjoyment in a particular responsibility can also drive a weakness.

With these tips, you should be able to identify key weaknesses of your boss and leaders. Make note of them to yourself and keep an eye out for future weakness revelations. After all, true servant leaders serve all – including their boss and leaders. Together with our leaders, we can balance each others weaknesses. We’ll cover how to do this in the next post.

Questions: Have you identified weaknesses in your leaders before? How did you and the team respond?


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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