Strength as Weakness; Weakness as Strength


Having strengths seem like the obvious winner over weaknesses. But is it? And should we be focusing on our strengths and leave the topic of discussion on weaknesses out?

With Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership (which are excellent reads), many people have better resources and clarity in understanding their own edge over others. All of us would want to leverage on our strengths, to be in a state of high performance resulting in confidence and sense of achievement. Yet, many of us would avoid the topic of weaknesses completely, may not have analysed our weaknesses or may not be entirely truthful even if they are pointed out to us. The truth is, an over emphasis on strengths may over time lean on the other end of the scale.

How can Strengths be Weaknesses?

Many perceive confidence as a strength, but overusing it may come off as arrogant, dominating or obnoxious. Empathy, on the hand, may not come off as a strength to some despite being in the limelight as the key towards the best form of leadership recently. Truth to be told, there is no one size fits all in our world simply because everyone is different, raised differently, adopting different culture, cultivating a different mindset and in turn different behaviour.

The context of which our strengths can also be deemed as a weakness varies. Some of us may have learned the hard way (learning nonetheless), while some of us have the luxury of learning from others’ teachings. In all great stories, the main characters evolvement usually involves a great deal of switch between strengths and weaknesses, just like how this was illustrated in the infamous J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, or in the highly entertaining Marvel’s series of superheroes where everyone of them have their own strength and weakness.

Know Thyself

Choosing to focus on our strengths is a choice, and the journey to knowing ourselves will provide us with a better understanding of how we work best and how we may not be as effective in certain areas. It is inevitable during job interviews that we are posted with the question of “What would you say is your personal strength? And weaknesses?”. This question, although cliche, offers more of a reflection of what do we personally perceive of ourselves, and what are we doing to improve on our weaknesses.

Michael Jordan, the world’s most iconic NBA player, has been critiqued over his long range shots as his weakness. But that did not stop him from improving his game and adding that to his arsenal of strengths, whether its inside or outside the 3-pointer arc.

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life… And that’s why I succeed” – Michael Jordan

Shunning the topic of weaknesses will not be the best way to move ahead in life. We must be truthful to ourselves, critically truthful in order to know what we can improve and where we can best utilise our strengths. In the current fast-paced society, many organisations are always looking for “the best talents” to join them. Optimistically, there are also increasing number of companies looking for potentials in people via characteristics questioning/tests, psychometric tests, and aptitude tests. Of course, the downside is getting past the resume screening process, which is often done via softwares looking for keywords these days, and whether the hiring manager has the knowledge and intention of hiring one with potential or just getting certain tasks done.

Review and Adjust Accordingly

United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd has developed a concept for decision making – the OODA loop, which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. This concept has assisted in many decision making in multi-national enterprises and a tool for management consultants. This can also be used on a personal evaluation basis, where one observe our surroundings, the people who we associate with, our thoughts; Orient our behaviour in view of the ever-changing environment and people we work with, in other words, mindfulness; Decide on the way we want to react to the certain scenario or the best from our experience; Act, based on our mentally decided approach and also a test of what we have gone through, putting it in practise.

What are your strengths? What would you say are your weaknesses? And what are you going to do about them?

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