When you’re only 30-years old and your net worth goes up and down in increments of billions of dollars, you have to figure you’ve done something right.
Mark Zuckerberg has definitely done some things right — and some things terribly wrong.
For example, on a conference call with analysts after his public offering two years ago, the boy wonder “tried to sound cool on one hand and like a seasoned vet on the other,” said one analyst. “It sucked — just like the IPO.”
Zuckerberg has obviously recovered from that, but he stands as a lesson to every CEO: If you expect perfection from yourself, you’re dreaming.
Why Leaders Need to Know Their Weaknesses
Perhaps the hardest thing for a CEO to do is admit his or her weaknesses. After all, the CEO is expected to have all the answers and know what to do in every situation.
It might give you some comfort to know that great management guru Peter Drucker had to come to terms with his weaknesses. For instance, he learned from feedback that he had an intuitive understanding of technical people (like engineers or accountants), but he didn’t resonate with generalists. Drucker says this self-awareness is necessary for success.
“You’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself,” he says. “Not only what your strengths and weaknesses are, but also how you learn, how you work with others, what your values are, and where you can make the greatest contribution. Because only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence.”
Recognizing Your Faults
Recognizing your faults makes your company stronger because it allows you to investigate and fix the problems you are experiencing.
The benefits don’t stop there, either. When you begin to identify your weaknesses, you will:
- Create a snapshot of yourself where you are in the beginning and use this to plot your growth.
- Activate a defense mechanism that keeps your zealotry from undermining rationality in your business.
- Develop the courage to communicate with others who can advise you about overcoming your weaknesses.
When I became a CEO, I had a hard time communicating with people. By focusing my energy on becoming a better communicator, I began to understand how others were thinking and why they behaved as they did. This allowed me to get to the bottom of problems more quickly, and now I’m able to talk and relate to all kinds of different people.
Another thing I noticed about myself was that I had a hard time making decisions, and I would change my mind too often. I had to train myself to recognize what the critical decisions were and act decisively on them. As a result, I’ve become a more strategic risk taker, and it’s paid off.
In other cases, something you perceive as a weakness can actually be a strength. For example, I was hesitant to select a strategic partner, which led me to explore the industry. This changed my perspective and allowed me to develop better partnerships and get involved in exciting projects I wouldn’t otherwise have been a part of.
You Can’t Fix Every Weakness
Although constant self-improvement is critical for leaders, realize you won’t be able to fix every weakness.
Mark Zuckerberg understands that.
“There are people who are really good managers, people who can manage a big organization, and then there are people who are very analytic or focused on strategy,” he said. “Those two types don’t usually tend to be in the same person. I would put myself much more in the latter camp.”
Sometimes, the answer is finding people who are strong in an area where you are weak. Just imagine you’re in a high school chemistry class. If your weakness is math but you’re great at handling chemicals, pick a partner who can do the calculations and leave the mixing to you. This is how the best teams operate.
As a leader, it’s your job to create feedback loops so your employees can learn to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Do you see patterns across your entire team? Address these with training.
The most important thing to realize when addressing your weaknesses is that self-reflection is not a one-time event. Always try to see yourself as you were in the past, as you are in the present, and as others see you. This will help you maintain perspective on how much you’ve grown and how much you can still accomplish.
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