This blog is on topics of interest to early career professionals who work with people with disabilities. Blog contributors have diverse perspectives on leadership, professional development, and success in changing systems to better serve people with disabilities and their families. For more information on Early Career Professionals, check out the website:

09 October, 2012

"Hire Your Weakness"

Tracy Golden, PhD
Assistant Professor of Social Work, Utah Valley University

Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, started her company with $5000. and a frustration about panty lines showing through white pants.  That was over ten years ago.  Today, Blakely is the youngest woman to make the Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires on her own, with no help from an inheritance or a husband.  Her advice?  “Hire your weakness.”

As an early career professional in the field of disabilities, you may wonder why I would choose Sara Blakely’s story as an opener.  It’s simple – she was successful, extraordinarily so.   And if we want to be extraordinarily successful we can learn from people who do things well even if our ideals, mission statements and bottom lines are as different from Sara’s as AUCD’s are from General Motors.   Sara (and countless leaders before her) knew something many of us are loathe to admit:  as leaders, none of us will ever be complete.  If we are visionaries, we often overlook details.  If we are task masters, we forget the simple power of encouraging words.  If we are passionate, we might burn out before projects are done.   All of us shine, but none of us shines perfectly.  We all need to complement ourselves with people who can do certain things better than we can.  As an early career professional, instead of fighting this idea, embrace it.  You will save yourself countless heartaches and mediocre projects.

It is almost un-American to suggest that we should look around to find others who complement us rather than dedicating ourselves to lifelong self-improvement.   Americans are by nature “do-it-your-selfers”.   But by the time we have found ourselves in positions of leadership early in our careers, it is likely we are well aware of what we do well, and what we do not do so well.  Rather than turning to the next leadership training course or New York times bestseller on the habits of amazing people,  you can become better and more effective much more easily and quickly by shifting your thinking and finding people who already are better than you at certain things.  Do not fear that they will replace you, for they have weaknesses, too.  They need you just as much as you need them.

As a leader, take stock of yourself.  Analyze your assets and liabilities and begin to fill in the gaps with capable others.  If you are yin, find yang.  If you are meat, find potatoes.  If you are sun, find rain.    Whether you collaborate, share a leadership position, or divvy up responsibilities along traditional lines of hierarchy, figure out what you cannot do, and find someone else that can.  When you join forces, you just might become unstoppable. 


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