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When Your Best Leadership Skills Work Against You

I'm not a WWII historian, but the story of General George S. Patton and his self-destructive leadership has always fascinated me. He was a tremendous motivator of troops, but at the same time he had a dark side that allowed him to slap a sick soldier in an infirmary because Patton thought him a coward.
The same virtues that earned him the admiration of his people, bravery and loyalty, turned into bullying and ostracizing when Patton felt challenged. So thanks to Gill Corkindale for shining a light on this common failure in many of us that turns our acknowledged strengths (enthusiasm/charm/focus) into weaknesses (volatility/manipulativeness/passive aggression). Writing on Harvard Business Publishing, Corkindale observes:

"All too often (leaders) are aware only of the positive effects of their personalities, screening out the negative impact on those surrounding them. If they remain impervious to feedback -- or the organizational culture doesn't support individual feedback -- then senior leaders can be in serious danger of sabotaging their careers as well as their companies."
How does this happen? Corkindale posits that we are so praised on these strengths throughout our career that we become blind to their "shadow side." If you have a reputation as diligent, you might at times slop over into perfectionist without really knowing.

Read Corkindale's post, Don't Let Your Strengths Become Your Weaknesses, for the best ways to check these tendencies in yourself and others. One tip: The anonymous 360-degree review provides one way your reports and peers can be honest in their observations of your performance.

Have you noticed a boss whose best traits morph into something more dark?

(Patton image by Paul Keleher, CC 2.0)

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