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Self-Improvement for Business Leaders: Acknowledging a Fatal Flaw

Posted by Brian Spence on Mar 28, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Self-ImprovementFortune 500 executives believe they accurately know their true strengths and faults. These leaders also think they can identify areas where they need self-improvement, but two Harvard Business Review columnists learned that the administrators' insights were incorrect.

Consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman are authors of Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution. The pair runs the development consultancy group Zenger/Folkman and conducted a 360-degree feedback survey about the leaders to test this theory. They asked employees about the executives' strengths and weaknesses. Several scored at the bottom in critical areas. The researchers found that low-scoring executives were unaware of their weaknesses. Additionally, the consultants found that 30 percent of leaders possessed a "fatal flaw".

What is a Fatal Flaw?

The researchers outlined the difference between a weakness and a fatal flaw. They defined weaknesses as minor areas that don't impact a leader's effectiveness, but a fatal flaw is more dire. These are serious flaws that can destroy an executive's career and hurt the organization they lead. Most are unaware of their fatal flaw. Zenger and Folkman found that administrators that have fatal flaws continually rank in the bottom 10 percent of these skill areas. They also fall to the bottom fifth in leadership rankings, no matter how wonderful their strengths are.

How Can Leaders Improve Their Fatal Flaws?

Zenger and Folkman argue that leaders can discover if their flaws are serious. Here is a process that leaders can follow to learn more about their faults. 

  1. Find a "Truth Teller.An honest person can provide feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. Most individuals can spot faults in others. Encourage truth tellers to speak freely. They'll do so cautious. Your reaction will determine whether they openly share the truth.

  2. Hire Outside Coaches or Therapists. Some companies offer 360-degree feedback. Others do not. If necessary, hire a life coach or therapist to help. Some insurance providers cover the cost the therapy. A good therapist or life coach can identify your weaknesses. They'll provide advice to help you improve.

If interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Career Advice and Self-Improvement sections of our blog.


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