1 in 3 leaders have a fatal flaw they aren't aware of. What's yours?

The stakes are high for developing self-aware leaders.

Research has shown that high levels of self-awareness lead to better team performance and conflict management, but most people have no clue how others perceive them.

While most leaders can identify their strengths, many are oblivious to their weaknesses, write Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman for Harvard Business Review.

In fact, 30% of leaders have a fatal flaw they aren't aware of, according to Zenger and Folkman's analysis of 360-degree feedback survey data.

Everyone has weaknesses, but fatal flaws can hurt a person's overall effectiveness as a leader, Zenger and Folkman write. Leaders who perform in the bottom 10% of a skill are more likely to land in the bottom fifth overall—no matter how strong they are in other areas, the authors warn. Leaders don't have to master every skill, but completely lacking in one can seriously hamper their performance.

Zenger and Folkman theorize that strengths are easier to identify because they are often seen as direct outcomes of specific behavior. For example, great problem-solvers can recall specific problems they helped solve.

Weaknesses and fatal flaws, however, are the result of inaction. These flaws lead to "a project that doesn't exist," the authors write. The most common fatal flaws are a lack of strategic thinking and not building strong relationships, they add.

Also see: You're less inclusive than you think you are

How to find your fatal flaw

Find a colleague who is willing to share honest feedback about your leadership, Zenger and Folkman recommend. Many colleagues recognize serious failings in their coworkers, but they rarely feel comfortable speaking up unless you give them an opportunity, the authors write.

Higher ed leaders can build their self-awareness through 360-degree reviews—as long as they listen to the constructive criticism, says Allison Vaillancourt, the University of Arizona's vice president for business affairs and human resources.

Instead of addressing negative feedback, some leaders flaunt their flaws in an effort to ward off further criticism. Criticism can sting, but truly effective leaders are willing to address their weaknesses directly, Vaillancourt writes (Zenger/Folkman, Harvard Business Review, 2/26).

Keep reading: How to take constructive criticism—the right way

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This university opened a Dreamers Resource Center. Here's their advice for other colleges.

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