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Can Good Leadership Skills Be a Bad Thing?


The end of the year is a great time for reflection. Many leaders and managers are taking some time to make plans and resolutions for how they want to change over the next year. At the company where I work, Corner Alliance, we’ve been thinking about what kind of things we see clients do that make them stand out as leaders and managers. There is a whole consulting industrial complex around leadership and management (of which I’m a part) that seeks to shed light on this. Just search leadership on Amazon and you get more than 100,000 results.

But we wanted to just start from our own experience and forget about wading through the morass of leadership literature. We work with great leaders and managers every day. We did an internal survey of our consultants about the attributes and skills that they see the most successful of our clients exhibit. Things like communication, listening, accountability, self-awareness, time management, decisiveness and humility came up again and again. Those are all important areas for managers and leaders to work on, and what I took away from our discussion was the need for successful leaders to find a balance in all these attributes and skills. All too often we think skills such as communication, listening, etc., are the kinds of things where the more you get, the better. But, in truth, every strength eventually becomes a weakness when overused.

Leaders need to create a culture of accountability, for example, but the question is how much do you need? You can have no accountability and get an organization that loses its best people and promotes an atmosphere of cynicism because poor performers are not dealt with or are even rewarded or leadership fails to follow through on commitments. By the same token, you can have too much accountability with leadership that micromanages, stifles creativity and doesn’t allow for mistakes.

A successful leader is the one who finds the optimal point along the continuum of accountability. That leader is Goldilocks finding the bed that is just right. That balance point can change based on the personal style of each leader and the unique circumstances in each organization. It isn’t one size fits all.

Finding that point is your challenge as a leader. While you are making your resolutions for the next year, keep that idea in mind. When you think about what you want to improve, think about where the balance point is for you.

Follow me on Twitter @apentz

(Image via Bplanet/

Alan Pentz is a partner and co-founder of Corner Alliance, a Washington-based consulting firm that focuses on helping government clients build strategies to stay relevant in and capitalize on today's shifting technological landscape. He is a former Capitol Hill staffer and holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. Contact him at, or follow him on Twitter at @apentz

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