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Dr. David Gruder

Clinical and organizational development psychologist Dr. David Gruder is a 9-award-winning Business Success Psychologist who was hailed by the media in 2008 as "America's Integrity Expert." He helps: 1) Leaders become who they need to be for their enterprise to succeed; 2) Teams develop the skills & procedures that make it possible to have a great time collaborating to get things done excellently; 3) Seasoned service professionals profitably "productize” their expertise without compromising their professional standards or ethics; and 4) Society reclaim our power from the hijackers of integrity, happiness, health, prosperity & governance.
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Should Leadership Development Eliminate Weaknesses or Exploit Strengths?

January 06, 2016 / Leave a comment / by Dr. David Gruder

 The importance of leadership development in business success is no longer debated. Leading leadership consultants like Ken Blanchard, John Maxwell, Stephen Covey and Marshall Goldsmith agree that top-notch leadership development is essential for seasoned executives as budding talent, when building and sustaining high performing organizations.

Of all the executive development areas, EQ (Emotional Intelligence) appears to have become the most universally endorsed. And for good reason. As Travis Bradbury of Forbes puts it, "EQ skills empower people to deal with anyone, in any situation.” As a clinical and organizational development psychologist who has been a leader development mentor and trainer since the 1980s, I agree with him.

The question is, which EQ skills are the most useful to focus on in leadership upgrade initiatives? The most obvious answer is, whichever skills a particular leader would most benefit from developing. But what’s the menu of EQ stills development options? And even more to the point, is it better to focus on developing a leader’s weaker EQ area or on exploiting their EQ strengths?

Miranda Kennett of Management Today talks about "a seismic shift in the leadership development world away from concentrating on weaknesses (or 'development opportunities', as they were euphemistically termed) to focus on identifying and exploiting our strengths.” This trend is based on the belief that developing weaknesses isn’t a unsuccessful strategy, but that focusing on our inadequacies is depressing. Kennett goes on to assert that “since we can't build on weaknesses we're better off spending our energy on making the most of our strengths.”

Her position parallels the Positive Psychology movement’s position: accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. Don’t go delving into dark waters. Keep your attention on the sunny side of the street.

Yet, other leadership experts, such as my colleague Hugh Ballou, stress the importance of discovering your leadership gaps because those gaps limit leadership effectiveness at best and create damage at worst. Ballou’s position has parallels in the field of psychology as well. In fact, one of my long-time sayings is that "leaders lead at the level of their psychological limitations instead of their business’s highest intentions."

So, which is it: "Illuminate the negative” as my colleague David Corbin puts it, by understanding and fixing the behaviors that are holding us back, as Marshall Goldsmith’s best-selling book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is all about? Or focus on the “power of positive thinking” as Napoleon Hill advocates in his classic book “Think and Grow Rich," and his many adherents passionately advocate?

Since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by our tendency as human beings to turn both/and into either/or. Whether in politics, religion, or personal development. Similarly, with leader development is it truly prudent to play to our strengths and sidestep our gaps?

All of us have natural strengths, acquired strengths, acknowledged gaps and hidden gaps.

Natural Strengths

Acknowledged Gaps

Acquired Strengths

Hidden Gaps

 My experience is that the leaders who become the most effective and fulfilled are the ones who pay attention to all four of these areas:

  • They have taken ownership of their natural strengths, they make the most of them, and they look for opportunities to further refine their capacity to utilize these.
  • They have the courage to uncover the leadership gaps they didn’t know they have and they make strategic decisions about which they will turn into acquired strengths, and which they will make sure that others on the leader team have instead.

Kennett's notion that it’s not a good idea to address our weaknesses because doing this is depressing is, from my perspective, a kind of EQ deficit. A leader who can’t look honestly at their gaps without getting depressed lacks self-esteem. Leaders with self-esteem deficits tend to be ineffective wimps or ineffective egotists/tyrants. In other words, a leader who can’t look upon his or her deficits with open eyes, and yet without shame, will never become sustainably effective or sustainably happy in being a leader.

So, yes, leadership development is absolutely vital to business success. Yes, EQ skills are absolutely essential to leadership effectiveness. And yes, EQ includes becoming masterful in how we utilize our natural strengths, in how we turn well-selected gaps we have into acquired strengths, and in who we surround ourselves with that have the rest of the strengths our business needs to succeed.

Stop paying attention to the “experts" who advocate ignoring your gaps. Don’t settle for those who lack the expertise to help you further upgrade the usefulness of your natural and acquired strengths. And don’t waste your money on ones without the wisdom to help you discern which of your gaps to fill yourself versus which ones to bring others onto your team to fill.

You wouldn’t have made it all the way through this article unless you’re truly committed to your leadership effectiveness and your business’s success. You’d therefore be wisest to insist on utilizing only those leader development resources who can brilliantly help you in all of these areas, not just with some of them.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you experienced the cross road of this choice? 

7 Tips to Finding the Perfect Entrepreneurial Development Community

September 18, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Dr. David Gruder

Back in 2010, after three decades of being a successful entrepreneur, I found myself searching for resources in entrepreneurial development that could help me fill in my business gaps. I knew what some of the gaps were - and I also knew that I didn’t know what I didn't know. I needed help. 

Then one day, someone sent me a Facebook Friend request. After accepting I started receiving notifications of a local meetings for an entrepreneurial development community I had never heard of.

After a few months of ignoring the notifications, I suddenly felt compelled to attend one of the meetings.

At first I walked away thinking it was either a quantum breakthrough in entrepreneur development or it was the latest snake oil. 

Fortunately, I keep an open mind and I found myself discovering something far more useful than snake oil. I found the tools I needed to fill in my business gaps (known and unknown)... and then some. 

Over the years I've discovered seven elements that make the perfect entrepreneurial development community and I believe others could benefit from knowing what I've learned. 



Find an organization that can help you hyper-grow from each stage of your business. Seek a place whose mission is not only to serve its community but to demonstrate that businesses can be highly profitable through effective collaboration instead of dysfunctional competition. (Which is totally in alignment with how I like to roll.) 



Don’t just seek a skills development organization. Seek one that’s also 'heart-based' of like-minded entrepreneurs and experts who support one another as human beings and who are committed to creating success with others. 



An entrepreneur community is only as good as its members that are integrious, collaborative and successful. The best way to safeguard that kind of culture is through acquiring its members mostly by word of mouth and by encourage personal vetting of each prospect for suitability. 



Entrepreneurs fail because they don’t know what they don’t know and are unwilling to discover potential gaps. Seek a community that provides an industry-leading blend of full-spectrum entrepreneur knowledge & practical skills development.



Knowledge and skills mean nothing if you don’t know how to apply them and what to watch out for. This is why it’s so important for entrepreneurs to be able to consult with experts in all aspects of business development. Select a community that provides unlimited access to the experts (speakers) as part of your membership. 



So you’ve got knowledge, skills, and top-quality advising. But how are you going to make the contacts your business requires in each stage of its development? A top quality entrepreneur community revolves around collaborative networking processes.

Unfortunately typical trade shows don’t always provide this. Find a community whose networking approach can open virtually any door your business will need access to at each point in its development — not just the connections it needs today.



A business isn’t built in a week or a month or a year.  A lifetime membership type of set up (that meets multiple times a year) is one that’s continually there for you.

In other words, it serves you as your business continues to evolve from one developmental phase to the next; from concept through exit.

Entrepreneurs ordinarily stay with their business for anywhere between five years and the rest of their lives. And if they exit after only 5-10 years they most frequently go on to start another business. Therefore, anything less than lifetime membership is not an entrepreneur development organization or community, it’s an attend-and-forget-it event. If you’re serious about entrepreneurship, look for a lifetime membership organization.

The one I found was what I had secretly always wanted but had never believed existed.

With that said, I've come to the understanding that if one is serious about building a successful career as an entrepreneur they owe it to themselves to find an Entrepreneur Development Community that supports them 100% in accomplishing that goal.