Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. We have those things we are really good at and those things that we aren’t particularly good at. We have gifts and talents and personality traits in which we shine. Then, we have our idiosyncrasies and flaws. We also have weaknesses.
But sometimes our strength can be our weakness. Sometimes we are weak at the very thing we are strong at. This is the paradox of strong qualities. For example:
Humble people can be prideful.
Confident people can be in denial, and their confidence can keep them from seeing reality.
Prayerful people can confuse their voice for God’s voice.
Humorous people can be hurtful.
Caring people can forget about you.
Decisive people can decide the wrong thing.
And so on…..
The deceptive part of this is that we aren’t aware when our strength has become a weakness. We can’ t see where there very thing we’re known for is the very thing that is causing harm. We just assume that we’re always one way…always one thing, one person. We think:
If I’m known to be humble, then I must always be humble.
If my confidence has caused success, then I must be right (all the time).
If my prayers have are sincere then it must be God’s voice I’m hearing.
If I’m humorous I always lift people up.
If I’m caring, then people must see that I care.
If my decisions have led us this far then my decisions will continue to lead in the right direction.
We live by these strengths on autopilot without a reality checking system. And our team members don’t rock the boat because our strengths are obvious, and admire us for them.
Then, we get shook up when someone we admire who exhibits these great strengths act “out of character.” We see pride in the humble leader. We experience arrogance from the leader who is confident. The person of faith who is known for praying gets a spiritual superiority complex. The funny leader who usually lifts people up sends out a sarcastic comment about someone and hurts them deeply. The leader known for caring becomes abrasive. The decision maker makes the wrong decision and it’s causing some damage.
What trips us up is this feeling (or thinking) that we are one person. That if we’re wonderful, we’re wonderful all the time.
The reality check is knowing that we are a mixture of people under our own skin. The reality check comes when seek to be honest with ourselves by letting others be honest with us. The reality check is having some person(s) in our life with whom we are not the boss, authority, or superior; someone who can tell it like it is and with whom we will hear what we need to hear.
The more we do this, the more we will be able to keep our strengths from unintentionally causing harm. Servant Leaders perform reality checks because they know and understand the Paradox of Strong Qualities.