Strong People Always Have Strong Weaknesses Too

Peter Drucker? Wess Roberts? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: When selecting the head of an organization it is tempting to search for the perfect applicant who excels in everything, i.e., the mythical candidate without flaws. The following two statements provide a counterpoint perspective:

  • Strong people have strong weaknesses,
  • Strong chieftains always have strong weaknesses.

This adage is attributed to management guru Peter Drucker. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Peter F. Drucker’s 1967 book “The Effective Executive” included an anecdote in which President Abraham Lincoln was told that General Ulysses S. Grant was a flawed leader because he imbibed too much. Yet, Lincoln believed Grant was his most effective military man. According to legend Lincoln mischievously asked the detractors to tell him Grant’s favorite whiskey, so he could send a barrel to each of his other generals. QI investigated this entertaining yarn here.

Lincoln’s recognition that a powerful chief may have blemishes illustrated the point made by Drucker in the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The idea that there are “well-rounded” people, people who have only strengths and no weaknesses . . . is a prescription for mediocrity if not for incompetence. Strong people always have strong weaknesses too. Where there are peaks, there are valleys.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Strong People Always Have Strong Weaknesses Too

Notes:

  1. 1967, The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker, Chapter 4: Making Strength Productive, Quote Page 72, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)