One of the first management books I read when I became a supervisor at Culligan Water in the mid-seventies was Peter Drucker’s slim and wisdom packed book, The Effective Executive. Chapter 4; “Making Strengths Productive,” was especially helpful. In subsequent management roles I found myself recalling or referring back to his practical and powerful perspectives on balancing strengths versus weaknesses.
Often called “the father of modern management” it’s surprising that the field of leadership and leadership development has taken decades to finally research and build on Drucker’s advice about strengths-based leadership.
“The idea that there are ‘well-rounded’ people, people who have only strengths and no weaknesses … is a prescription for mediocrity if not for incompetence … Where there are peaks, there are valleys. And no one is strong in many areas. Measured against the universe of human knowledge, experience, and abilities, even the greatest genius would have to be rated a total failure.”
“People with outstanding accomplishments in many areas are unknown. Even Leonardo performed only in the area of design despite his manifold interests …”
“To staff from what there is not and to focus on weakness is wasteful — a misuse, if not abuse, of the human resource.”
“Effective executives lead from strength in their own work. They make productive what they can do.”
” … making strength productive is as much an attitude as it is a practice. But it can be improved with practice.”
“In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problems … only strength produces results. Weakness only produces headaches — and the absence of weakness produces nothing.”
“The task of an executive is not to change human beings. Rather … the task is to multiply performance capacity of the whole by putting to use whatever strength, whatever health, whatever aspiration there is in individuals.”
“To focus on weakness is not only foolish; it is irresponsible … organization must serve the individual to achieve through his strengths and regardless of his limitations and weaknesses.”