Hank Paulson, the former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, has said that every leader that he’s worked with has had significant blind spots – and he’s worked with a lot of important leaders in the financial world. These leaders know they have strengths and weaknesses. What they do is surround themselves with people who complement their strengths and make up for their weaknesses.
For example, Paulson knows that he is very cerebral. He gets stuck in details, so he needs people who can tell him, “That’s enough. It’s time to move on.”
That’s a common pattern for good leaders. Poor leaders think, “I have the job, so I should know it all.” They usually fail.
You Can’t Be Great At Everything
Author and business consultant Marcus Buckingham popularized the idea of “strengths leadership.” Strengths leadership says that you shouldn’t worry too much about fixing your weaknesses. Instead, you should work on your strengths. It’s more natural for you, and you’ll be more successful at it. Your strengths are why you are where you are in the first place.
But you can’t just ignore your weaknesses. You need to find other people who make up for them. No one person can be great at everything. The idea is not to overcome your weaknesses, but to bring in others who are strong where you are weak.
That’s the whole point behind diversity: finding people who complement each other with different strengths.
Why Your Inner Circle Needs Diversity
Everybody has an inner circle made up of friends, confidants, advisors, and counselors. We trust them to tell us the truth.
Our natural tendency is to stick with people who are just like us, so our inner circles are often full of people who think the same way we do. They agree with us and endorse our ideas. The problem is, if we’re all thinking the same way, we can’t compensate for each other’s weaknesses. We end up going down the wrong path – but at least we’re all going together, right?
You need to make sure that your inner circle includes a large number of people who don’t see the world the way you do, people you know will disagree with you most of the time. They’ll see the things you miss in your blind spots. They’ll steer you away from mistakes by challenging you.
We are human. We feel comfort when people agree with us, so it’s okay to keep some people in our inner circle who think the way we do. We just need to complement them with people who don’t.