by Caitlin Meadows
A top question job interviewers ask candidates is two-fold: First, what are your strengths? Second, what are your weaknesses? The first part of that inquiry is easy to answer. One is given license to brag a little. However, the second part of that inquiry is not so fun. Our human pride lies to us, telling us that admitting weakness is itself a weakness. If someone interested in hiring us really knew our weaknesses, they may decide against us. But such reasoning is comical because, of course we all have areas of weakness! And the cool thing about that truth is that both our strengths and our weaknesses encourage community, relationship, and teamwork.
Playing to Strengths Requires Acknowledging Weaknesses
In last week’s video post, “What is a Leader?” the co-deans of Artios Christian College, Israel Steinmetz and Amber Riggs, shared a candid conversation answering that very question. Toward the end of their dialogue, they reached the topic of strengths and weaknesses. Amber began,
“When we work together as a leadership team, it’s fun to play off of each other’s strengths. And that means, that I don’t have to be responsible for everything because God hasn’t gifted me in every area.”
“Playing on each other’s strengths – the other side of that coin is admitting our own weaknesses,” Israel added. “To acknowledge that I’m going to play to my own strengths means that I have strengths but it also means I have weaknesses. I have limitations. So the way that I play best to my strengths is to acknowledge that I have weaknesses and that there are other people who need to play to their strengths and we need to play together.”
Teams offer a safe place for recognizing and acknowledging weaknesses.
The points Israel and Amber made make total sense to those who are on official teams at work, church, or in the community. Working in a leadership team brings out each individuals strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, a team atmosphere creates a sense of safety in which a person can readily acknowledge his/her weaknesses. This is because in a team, there is someone else who can better handle that particular area of leadership. In the safety of a team, each person can take on the position that best suits his/her strengths, much like in a sports team. If my strength is public speaking and my weakness is writing, I can be the spokesperson. The person on my team who is a gifted writer but suffers from stage fright can do the speech writing and not worry about the message’s delivery. We play to each other’s strengths while balancing each other’s weaknesses.
What if you’re not part of a designated team?
But what if you’re not a part of a designated leadership team? What if you don’t have a safe group of individuals to play off of each other’s strengths and balance each other’s weaknesses?
It can be difficult to recognize and acknowledge our weaknesses without the accountability and contrast of working closely with others. However, this doesn’t mean it is impossible. Even if we aren’t all members of official teams in church, organizations, work, or the community, we can intentionally acknowledge our weaknesses. Even better, we can unofficially team up with other Jesus-followers for that accountability, contrast, and the benefit of playing off of each other’s strengths. How?
1) Identify your circles of influence
Each follower of Jesus is a leader for two important reasons. The first reason is that when we commit our lives to Jesus Christ He re-creates us to influence those around us to come to know Him, too. The second reason is that influence is leadership. Therefore, when we have influence on anyone, we’re leading them. To identify your circles of influence, simply identify who you interact with on a regular basis. Who is observing you? Learning from you? Doing life with you?
The easiest circle to identify is those with whom we live. Roommates, spouses, children, parents, siblings, etc. We have influence on who we live with and they have influence on us.
Our other circles are the people in our communities that we interact with on a regular basis. Our co-workers, neighbors, brothers and sisters from our congregations, friends, extended family. The list goes on. Even the people who follow us on social media represent a circle of influence.
So what are your circles? What names and faces come to mind? These are the individuals on whom you have influence—the people you lead.
2) Identify your “teammate(s)” in each circle
In many of our circles we naturally operate as teams. In the home our strengths and weaknesses emerge and we take on roles that best suit our strengths. The same can be said for our places of work and especially of our church congregations. Though we don’t think of our friends as teammates, that is what they are. My best friends may not live near me, but they are the ones I am in weekly conversation with. We share what we’re going through, encourage and challenge one another. My best friends are not afraid to point out my weaknesses in love and use their strengths to mentor me when I’m struggling.
So who are your teammates in each of your circles? What names and faces come to mind? These are the individuals that will balance your weaknesses with their strengths and vice versa.
3) Get involved in an official capacity in one or more of your circles
If you don’t already serve on a team in an official capacity, consider jumping in. Church congregations are constantly in need of new servants to volunteer their time and offer their unique strengths. Maybe your strengths are exactly what is needed to balance the weaknesses of the other volunteers? When you serve in this way, you will have the opportunity to not just utilize your strengths but to recognize and acknowledge your weaknesses. This will only increase your circles and your influence for Christ.
Leadership is a Team Sport
As Israel pointed out in the video “It is team leadership that we see modeled for us in the New Testament…what we’re taught about leadership only works in team leadership.”
“Yes,” Amber added, “Leadership is a team sport.”
Once you identify your team members and begin working toward a common goal, your leadership journey becomes a team sport. As each member lends their particular strengths to the pursuit of the goal, individual weaknesses become insignificant in light of the team’s combined strengths. The team that balances strengths and weaknesses will become a living example of Aristotle’s famous adage: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”