Your Greatest Strength Can Be Your Greatest Weakness

Several years ago a leader I served under, a leader I respected, told me that my greatest strengths could also be my greatest weaknesses. He meant this as a word of both encouragement and caution. He was saying, “I don’t want you to lose what you are best at, but I don’t want those strengths to turn on you. You must be aware of the inherent downsides of your strengths.”

William Shakespeare has been quoted as saying, “Your greatest strength begets your greatest weakness.”

And you have likely seen it. The leader who is excellent with details can get lost in them. The leader who is great with executing tasks can run over people. The leader who is incredible with people can forget about assignments.

Chris Kuenne of Princeton and John Danner of UC Berkeley have done extensive research on entrepreneurs and have found four general types of personalities that lead to four general approaches to leading. While their research is focused on founders of companies, their findings can apply to all leaders. They have discovered that in each leadership/entrepreneurial strength, there is a corresponding weakness. Here are four types of leaders/entrepreneurs:

1. Drivers (focused first on programs)

Drivers are obsessed with the product, program, or solution they are offering others. They are deeply committed and expect others to be as well. Weakness: Drivers can lose sight of the bigger mission and run over people in the process. Being driven does not need to mean you drive over people.

2. Explorers (focused first on problems)

Explorers are focused on the puzzle, on solving problems. They are able to attack complexity and bring order and systems to the complexity. Weakness: Explorers’ attraction to solving problems can stop them from executing one that has already been solved. They keep moving on to something else.

3. Crusaders (focused first on mission)

Crusaders are mission-driven. They rally people around a shared set of values, an overarching belief, and a compelling mission. We love to follow crusaders. Weakness: Crusaders can overlook competence problems because they care almost exclusively about commitment to the mission.

4. Captains (focused first on people)

Captains are focused on people. They are not self-absorbed, and they care deeply about those who serve alongside them. They involve others extremely well. Weakness: Captains can easily over-delegate and lose proximity to what is most essential.

For ministry leaders, it is hard to separate the mission from the people because people are our mission. But there are still some applicable insights from this research. Namely, it is wise to know yourself, to know your strengths, so you can be self-aware of the weaknesses that accompany those strengths.