Viewpoint: Working on our weaknesses


Advice is not usually hard to come by. We have all been on the receiving end of unsolicited, well-intentioned advice. We have likely been the giver of advice, as well.

When it comes to leadership, there is no shortage of advice. It seems that everyone has something to contribute when it comes to opinions on leaders and their leadership.

Since we have all worked for someone during our career, we all have opinions about how leaders should work and communicate with their team.

If you read different articles about the top leadership qualities, you will likely get different lists of traits. From excellent communication of strategic goals to effective change management and process development; each organization prioritizes different aspects of leadership. Learning and developing multiple leadership traits and being able to apply them appropriately will serve you well in your career.

This article comes from the new issue of the Community College Journal, published by the American Association of Community Colleges since 1930.

Some of these traits will come naturally and others will need a little work. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Strengths are easy to talk about; it is the weaknesses that require some attention.

Weaknesses may be a misnomer. For me, weaknesses are just skills that have not been fully developed. There is a vulnerability in acknowledging weaknesses. But being open to working on them is, in and of itself, a leadership trait.

This is no easy task. As a leader in our ever-public society, acknowledging any gaps — real or perceived — in your leadership skill set may leave you feeling exposed. In today’s world, we have all seen these gaps used as fodder for negativity. But, in my experience, the benefits are worth the risk.

Actively developing leadership skills, even after you have reached the highest levels within the organization, is a great way to show that leadership requires evolution, learning and commitment. It is leading by example and it sets the stage for those on your team to value personal and professional development.

It is also a chance to lift those around you so that their skills can shine. Smart leaders surround themselves with others who have different talents and strengths. As a president, you can’t possibly know all there is to know about running a college campus. Allowing team members to showcase their knowledge and teach you and others will benefit everyone and help you to build a formidable team.

Opening yourself to learning and to sharing your own strengths and weaknesses will lead to others being open to learning and growing. It becomes a cycle that will lead to building a team that is constantly striving toward being better: better for the college, its students and its employees. Ultimately, the goal is that the culture will continue to seek to be better for the entire college community and may lend itself to building trust and aligning leadership actions with the goals of the college.

I recognize that this is unsolicited advice but I hope it will at least provide you with some ideas to reflect upon so that you will continue to advance your own leadership skills and create an environment for others to do the same.

About the Author

Walter G. Bumphus
Dr. Walter G. Bumphus is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.