It was one of the most insightful and sobering statements ever said to me!
Going back to the summer of 1968. I was in a Navigator summer training program in Missouri. I asked the leader, Chuck Strittmatter, what I thought was a simple and innocent question. His answer caught me by surprise and was hugely insightful for understanding myself more fully with a view to becoming a better leader.
My question was: What would you say my greatest strength and my greatest weakness is?
Chuck’s response was: “Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.” When he said that, I had no idea what he meant. In the ensuing years, I’ve come to understand exactly what he meant.
Chuck explained that I was goal-oriented, very organized and driven to get things done--which I still am 46 years later. He went on to explain that if I was not careful and sensitive in the way I used my gift, it could turn into a liability instead of an asset.
I have discovered, over the years, that I need to balance out my task orientation in getting things done with a healthy emphasis on getting along with others. This doesn’t come naturally to me and it requires me to lean heavily into his grace to see this happen. As I strive to accomplish tasks, I can be insensitive, impatient and inconsiderate of those with whom I work. I often expect more than is possible and expect it sooner than is realistic.
The very thing that can lead me to success is also the very thing that can lead to failure because anything and everything I want to accomplish necessitates working with, and getting along with, others. So, by pushing too hard in the direction of my gift/strength, I can allow that strength to actually become a weakness.
Now the secret is to stay focused on my gift/strength but not to the extent that it actually becomes a liability. The same issue presents itself for someone who is strong in getting along, but does so at the expense of getting things done. For long term ministry success, I need to get things done in the context of getting along. It is never either/or, but both/and.
“It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes or will follow them both.” Ecclesiastes 7:18 (NIV)