the shape of leadership

Playing to Strengths, Compensating for Weaknesses

Four steps to increased effectiveness in ministry

Stephen Blandino on September 24, 2020


Every ministry leader has God-given abilities, skills and spiritual gifts. This unique profile is a significant part of how a leader makes a difference and adds value to the Church.

Regarding spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul said, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). And the purpose of these gifts is to build up the body by equipping people for works of service (Ephesians 4:12).

In light of these truths, it makes sense to play to your strengths. However, a smart leader will not only play to strengths, but will also compensate for weaknesses. That means becoming aware of your blind spots so you can address them head on.

If you never address your weaknesses, the day will come when you can no longer play to your strengths. Why? Because you’ll be out of a job.

So, how do you deal with blind spots while playing to your strengths? How do you compensate for your weaknesses so you can allocate larger portions of your time to doing what you do best? Start with the following four steps:

1. Clarify Your Strengths

You can’t allocate more time to what you do best until you know what you do best. There are three ways to discover your strengths: assessments, experience and perspective.

First, take some assessments to help you discover your spiritual gifts, strengths and personality type. Tools like StrengthsFinder, MBTI, and DISC can be particularly helpful.

Second, reflect on your past experience. In which areas have you most excelled, and in which ones have you experienced the fewest results?

Finally, gain outside perspective. Ask the people who know you well to tell you the three things you do best.

2. Discover Your Blind Spots

You don’t know what your blind spots are — which is why they’re called blind spots. The only way to discover them is to ask. You need someone who is not afraid to tell you the truth but who cares enough about you to deliver the hard news constructively.

If you want to discover your blind spots, start by asking a couple of co-workers, a close friend, and a family member three questions:

  • What’s it like to be on the other side of me?
  • If you were going to make a “stop doing” list for me, what would be on it?
  • Where do I invest time that delivers the least amount of impact?
The best leaders are people developers, not task doers.

3. Eliminate, Automate or Delegate

When you know your strengths and your blind spots, put together a plan to compensate for your weaknesses.

Determine what you need to eliminate, automate and delegate. Author and productivity expert Rory Vaden describes this three-pronged approach in what he calls The Focus Funnel. This tool helps leaders become more productive by doing what is truly most significant.

First, eliminate the things that simply don’t matter. Do a thorough evaluation of how you use your time, and then eliminate the time wasters. Depending on the issue, this may mean building an accountability system to keep you from going back to time wasters or bad behaviors.

Second, automate tasks that happen repeatedly. For example, if you find yourself regularly answering the same question in emails, type up a response you can reuse whenever the question arises.

Third, delegate to someone else. If you can’t eliminate or automate a task, to whom can you delegate it so you can invest your time in things that will deliver a higher return? To delegate, you have to practice the fourth step.

4. Prioritize People Development

The best leaders are people developers, not task doers. They invest time training, equipping, resourcing and releasing people to do what they do best. A leader who fails to develop people usually ends up doing all kinds of things that are urgent but not important — or things someone else could handle more proficiently.

When you invest time developing people, two things happen. First, you help people improve. You believe in their potential and give them the tools and training to fly.

Second, you are able to delegate more responsibilities. Delegation is a win-win scenario. It’s a win for you, because it frees up more time for you to focus on your strengths and do the things with the highest return. And it’s a win for the people to whom you’re delegating because it gives them an opportunity to expand and improve their skills. Both happen when you prioritize people development.

Playing to your strengths is a wonderful way to add value to your church or organization. But if you fail to compensate for your weaknesses, you’ll ultimately undermine your strengths. You’ll also irritate and frustrate people who are on the receiving end of your habit of dropping balls and ignoring tasks that fall outside of your strengths.

Put the four steps above into practice, and start making progress toward greater personal fulfillment, increased effectiveness, and a healthier ministry.

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