There exists a phenomenon in organizations that has always fascinated me: An organization always takes on the personality of its leader, both strengths and weaknesses. I have never found an exception to this rule-the strengths and weaknesses of the leader inevitably become the strengths and weaknesses of the team or organization.
Don’t believe me? Try this: on a piece of paper, write down the greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses of your team or organization. On another piece of paper, write down the greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses of the leader or top decision maker for your team or organization (whether it is you or someone else). Now, compare the two lists and you will be amazed at how similar they are!
A moment’s reflection tells us that this has to be true; it’s an application of the Trickle Down Theory that we all learned about in school. Because of how much power he or she has, the leader of a team or organization decides what behavior is rewarded and what behavior is not rewarded in that organization. Those who choose to remain in the organization must conform to the leader’s preferences in order to succeed personally.
Example #1: A President is acutely aware of every aspect and facet of his operation. He establishes clear and inviolable rules for everything, is very cost conscious, and even monitors whether his Vice Presidents are at work by 8 a.m. and whether they leave before 5 p.m.
His greatest personal strength is attention to detail, and his greatest personal weakness is failure to see the big picture, or “majoring in the minors.” His organization is very profitable for a while, but profits begin to disappear over time because of a lack of investment in people and infrastructure to compete in a rapidly changing world.
Example #2: A well-liked and driven CEO places a premium on constantly generating radically new ideas for the business. Her organization boasts all manner of brainstorming meetings and input groups, and there is always a veritable plethora (perhaps even a cornucopia) of rushed and sometimes conflicting new initiatives underway.
Her greatest personal strengths are charisma and creativity, and her greatest personal weakness is insufficient focus. Her organization generally does well, but suffers regular financial setbacks from trying to be “all things to all people” and from pursuing unprofitable ventures that are not sufficiently analyzed beforehand.
- Technique #1: Know your personal strengths and weaknesses (hint: you probably have the worst seat in the house for seeing this; get help).
- Technique #2: Be the best you can be. The stronger you are, the stronger your team or organization will be (this is true for weaknesses, too).
- Technique #3: Have people on your team whose strengths compensate for your weaknesses.