Every Leader’s Weakness

I’m pretty careful when using words like always, never, and every. There seems to be an exception for most situations or circumstances. Almost always, almost.

Every leader however has this one flaw. Yes, I’m 100% certain that it is indeed every leader. Every single one. Every single leader who has ever been or ever will be, has or will have this same weakness; they are human.

Before they were ever thought of as a leader they were people, they were, and are, and they always will be, people. Just like you and me. They have the identical human frailties as every other human on earth. They love, they hate, they laugh, they cry. They are emotional, they have regrets, and they make mistakes.

It’s not until you stop to think about it that you realize that it’s those so called human “frailties” or “weaknesses” that also gives them the potential to be a leader. In fact, it’s those very “weaknesses” that provides them with the potential to be a great leader.

It turns out, this “weakness” is also likely their greatest strength.

It’s a leader’s ability to control those “frailties” that allow them to turn the supposed weaknesses into strengths. You see, it’s a leader’s capacity to love, to laugh, to cry and to regret that allows them to care. I imagine it’s possible to be an effective leader without caring for or about the people you lead but if your desire is to be an Authentic Serving Leader then caring is a must.

I don’t know about you but I find it much easier to commit to a leader when I believe they care about me as a human being.

If you follow a leader who has the capacity to care about you then you’re truly fortunate.

It’s too bad that so many people abuse that good fortune by pointing out all the mistakes and shortcomings of their leader. If you ever hope to “lead up” in your organization then you had best understand that the same human frailties that makes a human a good leader will also cause them to have some shortcomings.

If you must have a “perfect” leader then you better hope those experiments with robots work out. Because humans, even humans with the courage to lead, will never be perfect.

If your intention is indeed to “lead up” in your organization then it is not your role to point out the shortcomings of your leader to anyone who will listen. Your role is to discover the gaps of your leader and fill them to the best of your ability. Help them focus on their strengths by using your own strengths to do something they might not be especially good at. It’s very possible that if they are indeed a courageous leader that they may have added you to the team for just that purpose.

Here’s another way to look at it. If you want a leader who cares about people then be a person who cares about their leader.

Authentic Serving Leaders are great people, they are not perfect people. Stop disappointing yourself by expecting something that just isn’t possible.

8 thoughts on “Every Leader’s Weakness

  1. I have mixed views on this one Steve. Not because I don’t believe in caring ‘upward’. Because I wholeheartedly do. However, I DO believe there are limits and boundaries to how much enabling should be going on with leaders who continue to abuse their positions.

    Mistakes are one thing. Chronic patterns like lying and other issues are another. If a person has made attempts to communicate with leaders who play power trip games etc, it doesn’t matter how much a person cares. Your ‘kindness; isn’t going to get you very far except to be treated like a doormat.

    Compassion needs to be combined with accountability.

    In many cases, it seems that people who consider themselves to be leaders in the context of your post seems to believe that people ‘below them’ have more of a responsibility to ‘parent’ the leader then the leader has towards the followers. If that’s the case, the leader isn’t the leader.

    Any time I’ve had to ‘lead up’ even as a child, WITH ‘leaders’ I’ve loved… do you want to know how much my love and kindness helped them turn things around? ZERO.

    Because I didn’t have the power to make any of them accountable at the same time.

    And that’s what is lacking. We can have all the love in the world for our leaders, yet we can’t push a rope. And if those same leaders continue to justify and make excuses for chronic issues, we need to consider how much it’s costing people to keep enabling dysfunctional behavior.

    Mistakes aren’t the problem. Refusing to deal with those mistakes IS the problem. Refusing to be honest with people when those people communicate with you IS the problem. (speaking in general) Refusing to work thru basic conflict resolution IS the problem. Using power to shut other people down IS the problem. Expecting others to be more of a model in those claiming to be LEADERS of it..IS the problem.

    I’m not even remotely interested in perfection. I AM interested in love AND honest AND accountability.

    In my 45 year history on this planet, there are very few people on this earth that can say I never tried to work a problem out with them or try to communicate when there was a problem. I was always more then willing to…just not at the expense of my own life and safety or if it meant that I had to enable lies.

    Love and compassion is a two way street.

    Thanks for sharing your views Steve. I hope mine made some sense in light of your own. : )

    1. Gee, I’m wondering if we have a different definition of “leader.” We absolutely have no requirement to lead up if the person above us lies, cheats, breaks the law, or simply chooses not to do their job.

      Those people are NOT leaders. Enabling is not leading up, its failure to lead. Up, across, or down.

      I hold leaders to a VERY high standard. Not perfection but nonetheless very high. The types you describe are in no way shape or form a leader. They may sit in a leaders office, they may have a title that would indicate they should be leading but they are not leaders.

      Understand that it’s not possible to lead up if no one “up there” is a leader.

      1. Agreed Steve! Thanks for the clarification. I just see so many ‘leaders’ trying to justify what we agree is not leadership!

        If it all had to do with perfection, I’m a complete failure right along with everyone else! Far from perfect yet I’m open to feedback and I take my responsibility with my children and those who have ever followed me…seriously.

        Again, thanks for the clarification Steve.

        PS: For the record, for ANY leader or human being that has ever been sincerely ‘repentant’, my heart is always open. For the sincere and honest person who is human and makes mistakes.

        The door is always open.

      2. Just so you know, I am perfect….. well, mostly. Well, okay sometimes…. Maybe okay, maybe not sometimes… Maybe well maybe … Ok, so I’m never perfect but I certainly aspire to it. That should count for something too 🙂

  2. We expect a lot of our leaders we also need to extend them some grace too. Leaders that care about their people many times will be extended some grace from their followers as they know the leader cares and is all in. Thanks for sharing Steve!

    1. Thanks Tom, I agree, caring is a two-way street. Once we know that a leader cares about us we are far more likely to commit to them. That’s when great things begin to happen… for the leader AND their followers.

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