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Why Your "Flaws" Are Your Best Leadership Gifts

Every year I make time to join my family for some work to be done at my great-grandma's farm. On our most recent visit, our project was to paint the old wash house. It was hot, windy and dirty, but every time we visit I see this bus and am reminded of why her story resonates with me and why it did for so many who read my book.

an old bus on a farm

In the 1960's my great grandma, Elizabeth, bought this bus so she could pick up and house a seasonal harvest crew for our ranch in Southwest Nebraska.

While this might seem like “so what?!” these days, remember that in the 1960s, many women were homemakers. She ran this farm before women could get a bank loan without their spouse to co-sign. She had to buy this bus WITH CASH because she was a widow. In fact, she ran her farm on cash because she had no male relative to co-sign her checks.

Because of this, she frequently negotiated with farm suppliers down to the penny to keep her cash flow healthy. When workers saw her walk into their store, they immediately grabbed the manager. At 4' 11" she was short in stature but her presence was large. She would ask for the price she wanted and would stand there silently until she got her answer.

With her direct and assertive style, I have no doubt that people called her shrewed, bossy, a b*tch. But, BECAUSE she was direct and assertive, she created a legacy for her family and her farm fed hungry families. She reminds me how important it is to own what's unique about your approach and use it to make a difference. Her “flaws” were truly her greatest gifts to so many.

🔥 So, what if your personality "flaw" is your greatest gift? What have you been called and how can you use it for good like she did? (see below for some tips to help you reframe this!)



First, what if all the qualities you’ve been scared to demonstrate are exactly what you need to be successful?

Try this reframe. Because I am (insert “flaw”)_ , I am able to_________.

▫️Because I am sensitive, I can read the needs of our team.

▫️Because I am assertive, I tackle hard challenges most people shy away from.

▫️Because I am direct, I am clear in communicating needs.


Second, a key learning for me in my work with my own coach taught me that yes, directness is a gift and all my development to be more “palatable” or nice (instead of being too direct) has its place, too. All that hard interpersonal work isn't lost. Everything belongs.

I've been using this new tool myself and with my clients. Instead of believing that our approach is “black or white," it's more important to develop situational savvy.

Situational savvy doesn't mean you abandon the unique quirks that make you - you. It means that you are confident and flexible in your skills, approach and tone that you use all of your emotional intelligence to drive positive outcomes and build relationships.

Do This Next: Make Your Own Situational Savvy Matrix

  • Try plotting your “flaw” on the left side the graph below (see my own example!).

    • What unique situations call for it?

  • Next, try plotting the trait you've been working on to mitigate that “flaw.”

    • What situations call for it?

  • How can the two be blended?

  • How can you show up and offer your unique style to make a positive impact in a specific situation?

Kelli Thompson is a women's leadership & executive coach, speaker and author who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She offers 1-1 private coaching and is the founder of the Clarity & Confidence Women's Leadership program (online group training for corporate women leaders). She is the author of Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck.

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