Over the several years, I have become quite a fan of John Maxwell’s writings. His positive message wrapped in beautiful prose make reading his books a delight. The point I focus on today is from Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.

At one point in the book, John Maxwell discusses strengths versus weaknesses. In the book, he suggests:

  • Focus 70% of your time and energy on strengths
  • Focus 25 % on new things
  • Focus 5% on weaknesses

Maxwell suggestion is simple: Play from your strengths. Furthermore, it echoes the message of virtually every leadership and management book I have read lately. As just one example, in The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker talks of making strengths productive, and doing so in such a way that it makes weaknesses irrelevant.

Playing from one’s strengths is opposite from what we are often encouraged to do…especially in education. Our typical evaluation system is designed to identify our weaknesses and lead us through the formation of a plan to shore up those weaknesses.

Certainly I am not in favor of overlooking flaws which significantly hinder performance. Ignoring strengths while continuously focusing on weaknesses, however, is a formula for mediocrity.

What about the weaknesses? Can they be delegated to someone else who has some strengths in that area? Can you “swap out” and handle for someone else an are where you are strong and he/she is weak while the other person does the same for you? Does the weakness necessarily need to be addressed at all? If the impact is not terribly negative, ignoring it may be the best alternative. Generally, the areas where we are strong are also the areas where we like to spend time. The reverse of this point is also true. Playing from your strengths is not only more productive, but more enjoyable.

I think Maxwell is correct. We should spend the majority of our time honing those areas which are strong.