Byron's Babbles

Look For Strengths, Not The Abscence of Weaknesses!

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Learning Organization, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 2, 2015

president-abraham-lincoln-with-ex-president-james-buchanan-in-the-inaugural-parade-march-4-1861If you had to choose a better U.S. President between James Buchanan, our 15th President, or Abraham Lincoln, or 16th President, which would you choose. If you are like most historians and political scientists you chose Lincoln. He is considered by most to be one of our best Presidents ever; if not the best in history. This is interesting considering the background of the two individuals. Buchanan had significant, relevant national and international experience and failed; Lincoln had very little national and international experience and succeeded. This is what Maciariello (2014) points out as one of the most challenging aspects of succession planning: “What no one could have known is just how much this man could grow in character and competence as he tried to solve one problem after another in extraordinary times that lasted from his first day in office until his death.” (Maciariello, 2014, p. 242)

Succession is one of the key responsibilities of leadership. The succession decisions should focus on the maintenance of the spirit that keeps the institution alive. Solutions have to fit the specific organization and maintain its spirit of performance. The goal should be to maintain or restore the spirit of the organization while using the leader’s unique strengths to change effective practices and meet pressing challenges (Maciariello, 2014). We must also remember what Peter Drucker taught us about not avoiding weaknesses: “Strong people always have strong weaknesses too.” (Maciariello, 2014, pp. 247-248)

“Whoever tries to pick a man or staff an organization to avoid weakness will end up at best with mediocrity.” ~ Peter Drucker

Abraham Lincoln modeled this for us as well in choosing Ulysses S. Grant as his commander in chief. Grant had many flaws, but was just the right person to carry out Lincoln’s plan for winning the Civil War. Grant did carry out the plan and the war was ended. As the example of Ulysses S. Grant illustrates, individuals with weaknesses often have extraordinary strengths on which distinguished careers can be built. We need to strive to be more like Lincoln and ponder the challenges facing our organizations and then look for the right individuals with the strengths to meet the demands. IMG_0640

“The proof of the sincerity and seriousness of management is uncompromising emphasis on integrity of character. This, above all, has to be symbolized in management’s ‘people’ decisions. For it is character which leadership is exercised; it is character that sets the example and is imitated. Character is not something one can fool people about. The people with whom a person works, and especially subordinates, know in a few weeks whether he or she has integrity or not. They may forgive a person a great deal: incompetence, ignorance, insecurity, or bad manners. But they will not forgive lack of integrity in that person. Nor will they forgive higher management for choosing him.” ~ Peter Drucker


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

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