A new book explores how great leaders are made. The authors say that we should not pay too much attention to management weaknesses, unless it’s one of these five flaws.


Joseph Folkman and John Zenger have co-authored a book called The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders. The book is the result of a five-year research project led by Folkman that involved a database of 200,000 360-degree feedback reports pertaining to approximately 20,000 managers within hundreds of companies.

The book takes a look at how leaders are and are not developed. One point the authors make is that too much emphasis is placed on correcting weaknesses in potential managers. They say their research indicated that “lack of weaknesses” was not the distinguishing feature of the best leaders. Most great leaders have shortcomings, but the strengths they possess are profound. In other words, all leaders have some areas where they’re not so strong, but those aren’t a problem if a leader has outstanding strengths that compensate.

However, according to the authors, there are five flaws (“fatal flaws”) that prevent a leader from moving forward if the shortcomings are not addressed. These “fatal flaws” are:

  • Inability to learn from mistakes
  • Interpersonal incompetence
  • Lack of openness to new ideas
  • Tendency to blame others for problems
  • Lack of initiative

I think those are spot-on, though I would add the phrase “inability to admit mistakes” to number one. What do you think? Are these “fatal flaws” on target?