Wednesday, May 04, 2011

An overdeveloped strength can become a weakness?

How often have you heard the expression that “an overdeveloped strength can become a weakness”? Although there is truth to this statement, there is also a deeper underlying dynamic.

Why do some strengths turn into weaknesses?

Usually because some Shadow Belief is operating. Leaders either shed light or cast a shadow on everything they do. The more conscious the self-awareness, the more light leaders bring. The more limited the self-understanding, the bigger the shadow a leader casts. Let’s say we have a Shadow Belief that “we only have value if we are doing and achieving.”

If we are  unaware of this Shadow Belief, our drive and determination will soon turn into workaholism and lack of  intimacy, with profound negative implications for our health and relationships. Let’s say we have intelligence and self-confidence as  strengths combined with a Shadow Belief that “we always have to be right.” Without sufficient awareness, our self-confidence will turn into arrogance, abrasiveness, and self-righteousness. Here are some other examples of how  shadows can potentially turn strengths into weaknesses.

STRENGTH             +             SHADOW BELIEF                                         = WEAKNESS

Energy                             “I can never give up.”                                           Mania
Charm                             “I must succeed no matter what.”                         Manipulation
Conscientiousness           “I can always do better.”                                      Compulsiveness
Focus                             “I must know every detail to feel comfortable.”     Rigidity/Lack of Trust
Courage                         “I must always achieve more.”                                Foolhardiness
Presence                         “I must always be seen as exceptional.”                Narcissism/Self-Focus

Since our shadows are often hidden successfully from our own view, how can we bring them to light? Over the years, we’ve developed seven clues to indicate if a shadow may be operating:
  • Shadow Clue One: If other people often give us feedback inconsistent with how we see ourselves, a shadow is present.
  • Shadow Clue Two: When we feel stuck or blocked with a real loss as to what to do next, a shadow is holding us back.
  • Shadow Clue Three: As strengths become counterproductive, some hidden dynamics need to surface.
  • Shadow Clue Four: When we are not open to new information, new learning, or other people’s views, a shadow is limiting us.
  • Shadow Clue Five: If we react to circumstances with emotional responses disproportionate to the situation, we are right over the target of a Shadow Belief.
  • Shadow Clue Six: When we find ourselves forcefully reacting to the limitations of others in a critical, judgmental way, we are often projecting our shadow onto others.
  • Shadow Clue Seven: If we often experience pain, trauma, or discomfort in our body, a shadow may be attempting to rise to the surface to seek reconciliation. Listen to the wisdom of your body as you look to uncover Shadow Beliefs.
From -  LEADERSHIP FROM THE INSIDE OUT Becoming a Leader for Life, by KEVIN CASHMAN, 2nd Edition, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2008

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