Nov. 1, 2022

Leveraging our Gifts and Honouring our Limits in Leadership

EPISODE 60               

How can we bring the best that we can offer as a leader through leveraging our areas of giftedness and honouring our limits? What can we do to increase our effectiveness and impact without burning out and without needing to be inauthentic? Sometimes it's not what we have or don't have, but knowing HOW to manage and use what we have that makes all the difference.

In this episode I discuss how we can grow in self-awareness about our gifts and our limits as well as four ways we can use that awareness to be more effective and authentic in our leadership.

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(00:00:31) - Introduction
(00:07:32) - Personal Experiences
(00:16:03) - Having Clarity About Ourselves
(00:16:52) - How To Use This Clarity To Our Advantage As Leaders
(00:17:20) - 1. Focusing Energy Where Our Gifts & Strengths Can Contribute
(00:18:44) - 2. Remove Tasks Which Drain You
(00:19:33) - 3. Changing The Parameters Of What Doesn't Work For You
(00:20:45) - 4. Set Realistic Expectations For Yourself
(00:25:12) - Different Leadership Contexts
(00:28:23) - 1. Investing In Growing In Authenticity & Wholeness
(00:29:16) - 2. Learning What Our Gifts & Limits Are
(00:31:03) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
(00:35:04) - Conclusion
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listen to this episode today, what resonated?
- Were there any points where you've felt or experienced that before?

- At this current point in time, how well are you able to name your strengths and your weaknesses?
- How specific can you be?

Make two lists; all the activities you need to do in your role as a leader which energizes you and which drains you. 
- Look at the two lists side by; do you see any themes in them? 

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When we become more integrated and our core identity has strengthened, we will have greater freedom to see ourselves more clearly and to love ourselves as we are. And when we can do that, then our understanding of the unique gifts that we bring to the table and the corresponding limits that we have, they can both become assets in helping us exercise leadership much more effectively.

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Hello again, dear listeners, let me ask you a question – which is a better tool; a surgeon's scalpel or an axe? Now, you're probably thinking, it depends, Ann, right? And I hope you're thinking that because that would be absolutely true. It depends on whether you're performing a delicate surgery in an operating theatre or if you are chopping firewood.

Both a scalpel and an axe could be effective tools if used in the context for which they were designed, right? But if you tried to use a surgeon's scalpel to chop firewood or use an axe to perform an operation on a patient, both would be terrible tools and fail at their job. Okay, what I'm trying to illustrate is that every instrument was designed for a purpose, right?

And the better the fit between the design and the purpose, the more effective an instrument will be. The same principle applies to us when it comes to our life, our work, and even the way we exercise leadership. So, here on Becoming Me, you know, I'm always emphasizing this truth that we are not the same as one another, right?

We have our different temperaments, different gifts, and you know, we don't often really try and leverage these differences in the way that we live our lives. We often have a script that tells us, you know, what we should do or how we should do things – whether it's in the rules that we play in the family or in the roles that we play at work or as a leader, right?

One of the early episodes in the series, I spoke about our leadership scripts. Okay, so today, I want to talk about how we can leverage the uniqueness that's in us – both the gifts, as well as the limits that are part of the design of how we are; how we can leverage them in our leadership or in the way that we exercise our leadership.

Now, there are many different contexts and types of skills that leadership can call for. Understanding what we bring to the table and the fit between what we bring and what is needed from us as leaders, will help us know whether we are well or poorly equipped for the task. Our gifts, or our strengths or talents –

– these are what we can lean into in order to be most effective. Okay, understanding what ignites us, right? What sparks us, what motivates us, what puts us in flow, and what context we shine most in our leadership, helps us to know where we can be energized and where we can be very good at our job. Our limits, on the other hand, will show us where we need to be assisted, where we will need to support ourselves with more resources –

– where we should lower our expectations of our performance. Right, limits also help us to save energy and time. Or knowing our limits will help us to save energy and time because our limits show us where we should probably try and eliminate or delegate the tasks that we have to do. Okay, so gifts and limits, both can be helpful to us to be more authentic as leaders and to be more effective as leaders.

Now, this is where the interior journey will make a big difference. Okay, you may be thinking if you're just listening to this, and you're think, okay, theoretically, conceptually that makes sense, Ann, right?  Be aware of where my strengths are and where my weaknesses are, and you know, and act accordingly.

But here's the thing – we are not machines, right? And when we are not integrated and when we're living out from our insecurities and our fears, it's not that easy to be objective at looking at ourselves and seeing clearly where our gifts and our limitations or limits lie. We make cling too tightly to what we perceive to be our gifts.

Using them in any situation we enter, right – whether or not those gifts are appropriate to the task at hand or to the context at hand. And we can become very defensive and dejected when our gifts are rejected or when we don't succeed, even though we are really using our gifts.

So, this is because we still have that tendency to maybe, value ourselves according to how we are received by others. If we are a leader, we may feel that our worth rests on whether or not people think we are a good leader or not. Whether we can succeed in the job that we, you know – we were given to do. When there is that stance of fear, of scarcity, there is this compulsion for us to meet our need to be loved.

And then when we are in that kind of space, we're going to be very uncomfortable and not want to recognize our limits because that will make us feel unsafe. Because if we are to win other people's approval, we need to show how good we are, right? So, we are going to be wanting to focus on our gifts.

So, our need to do well and look good can make us blind, and we may be fearful to even acknowledge our limits because our shame will tell us that our limits are proof of our good for nothingness. Now, but when we become more integrated and our core identity has strengthened, we will have greater freedom to see ourselves more clearly and to love ourselves as we are and when we can do that, and when we can at least know how to bring ourselves back into that regulated space – remembering that our identity and our worth does not rest on how people see us, right?

But on something more solid, more stable, and more eternal than that. When we can do that, then our understanding of the unique gifts that we bring to the table and the corresponding limits that we have, they can both become assets in helping us exercise leadership much more effectively.


So, let me share just briefly in this episode, my own experience of this. So, you would've heard me talk about, you know, my time in parish ministry when I was working full time in the parish, and how I had burnt out after I think just one and a half years of volunteering full time. At that time, I wasn't even employed yet.

I was just a full-time volunteer. But, you know, taking on whatever was needed to, you know, to be done. I was also very happy to do so because I wanted to try everything. I had, at the time, just decided or discerned to go on a leave of absence for my doctoral studies. Right, and I was exploring the possibility that the Lord might be calling me to a very different kind of work in ministering to people.

So, given that it was an entirely new field, and I was starting afresh, I availed myself to all kinds of work. And so, I very quickly burnt out and I was not in a good space. And then also there were a couple of things that happened in my personal life – there was a bereavement in the family, and so there were a couple of months that I took leave from my involvement in church, you know, just to be with family, to grieve.

And I also used that time to review and reflect on where I was. And also, to mull over why it was that I'd burnt out so fast. You know, why it was that even though I enjoyed many aspects of my work, I started out really enthusiastic with a lot of energy, and I still love the idea of being in ministry.

But yet I couldn't deny that something was not right. And I also felt very weak, and there was still a lot of shame at the point because I thought, why was it that I was so weak – I should be able to do a lot more than what I was doing without burning out. Now, I don't know whether I have a realistic expectation.

There will be people who probably would tell me that I was being very unrealistic. But from my perspective – and a lot of this was the scripts that I had inherited, right, and the shame that was driving me – it was not enough. I wasn't doing enough. How could I be already burning out? So, during those few months when I wanted to reflect on where I was, I read books that helped me to think about, you know, the unique design that I may have.

I used whatever instruments or exercises that I came across. A lot of them were free, some were paid. But I just wanted to, you know, try and figure out was I mismatching what my areas of giftedness were with the kind of work that I was doing.

How can I find out where my call is meant to be – you know, more specifically? So, I noticed when I was doing this reflection that there were areas of work that were very easy for me, right? There were things that I could do well without having to try very hard, and I was very effective and also very energized when I could do those activities.

And then there were other activities, which would take me twice as long or even more. And even though I take longer, I would make more mistakes. The results would not be nearly as good, and it would just drain me so much that in the end, I would not have energy to even do what I was actually good at doing.

And because I was not aware of these differences – and I guess I wasn't discerning about what to take on, I think, at that point in my life, I wouldn't have been able to discern what to take on because my need to please was still very strong. I really cannot imagine myself saying "no" at that time. I think it was just: yes, yes, and I'll try and make it happen – whatever it was that you needed to be done.

So, I became clearer though, about – you know, what was really draining me and burning me out. And I think the fact that we just lost a beloved member of our family also made me realize or remember that life is short and having some greater clarity about how I'm called to live my life.

What kind of work is part of the personal vocation, maybe, that God is calling me into – it's something that's important. So, around that time, I was offered a job to lead the youth and young adults’ office in the parish. And actually, I was very candid. The first time I was offered the job, I just turned it down.

I just said, flat out – no. And the reason I said no was because I have seen, you know – usually youth and young adults’ offices, ministries are very event based; very big, you know, large groups, large formations camps – all these things, right? And the thing is, I know that's not my scene. If I were to be involved in organizing these camps and retreats, I could do it, but it really, really, really drained me.

And I was starting to realize around the time, that although I'm an extrovert, I needed a lot of alone time to be in a good space, or else I would get really exhausted because I'm very intense when I am engaging people. I'm very intense when I'm giving sessions or when I'm doing one-on-one. And I need a lot of silence and solitude after that to recalibrate, to think deep thoughts, to reflect.

It wasn't a luxury. I was starting to see that that was a necessary thing for me to be in a good space, right? So, I said no to the offer to work in the youth and young adults office because I didn't see a fit between what now, I've learned about what my design was – what my gifts and limits were, and how I saw the office being run by the previous director for youth and young adults.

But then I was approached again. And this time, the parish priest assured me that I could try and run the office in a way that was different, in a way that suited what I felt needed to be done. He was trying to convince me that I could try doing it differently because I shared with him what I learned about myself – about what I realized I can do well in what I cannot do.

And I told him that if I was going to take this job, there would have to be an understanding between us – that one, I would not be put in charge of organizing large scale performances and events. And that I would be able to work away from the office at times.

Because I really cannot work nine to five – or in this case, actually at the time when I was volunteering, it was almost like seven in the morning to 11 at night, I was in church. And I was given a desk – I was very appreciative of that – a desk in an office. But to be – to kind of be in one space for long stretches at a time, and to have to work out of a space that's shared, right – where people are coming in and out – was very, very distracting for me.

I cannot concentrate, I can't think. I can't write very well when I'm in that kind of space. And I wanted to be able to meet with young people, you know, for conversations in more casual settings. And sometimes, you know, in the coffee shops around the parish, or have the flexibility of doing my deeper thinking and planning from home where I wouldn't be constantly interrupted and where there is quiet.

So, I was assured that I could give that a shot, I could give that a try, and so I decided to take on that job. So, that's just that, that part of the story. And I am not really going into details at this point about what it is that drains me and what it is that gives me life, because I'd like to talk about that in the following episode where I'll go a little bit more into the specifics of understanding temperament and design.

Okay, but I just wanted to say, you know, learning or getting a bit clearer about where my strengths were and where my limits were, helped me to also be more confident in presenting myself. You know, not just to give a good impression, but in being able to communicate, in this case, to my boss or my future boss, what I can offer and what I'm not able to offer.

And I feel that in leadership, whether it's self-leadership or you know, exercising any kind of leadership, that's a very important trait, right? That we have clarity about ourselves, and we can be honest about that. And that gave me actually, a huge sense of relief that now I know better what makes me work well and what really makes me very ineffective.


So, how can we use the knowledge of our strengths and our weaknesses, or our gifts and our limits to our advantage when we are leaders? Here, I'm just going to give you a few points to think about. Again, in this episode, I'm going to give you kind of like a general overview, and then in the next episode I will delve more into specifics.

Okay, so, the first point is; we can focus most of our time and energy where our gifts and strengths can contribute. Okay, we can, and actually we should focus most of our time and energy where our gifts and strengths can contribute. Now, that's like saying, for example, and if, you know – if you're an axe or if you have an axe, you know, the axe used for chopping and please use it for chopping most of the time.

Sometimes, you know, in a pinch you need something with a sharp blade or something – you know, you may want to borrow the axe for – not for chopping firewood, but maybe for something else that is similar – sure, go ahead. But be careful about using a tool in a context that's completely foreign to what it was designed for, right.

When we understand what are the strengths that we bring to the table, find ways to focus most of our time and energy where our gifts and our strengths can actually contribute because this is the best we can bring, right. This is the reason why people would hire you. This is the reason why people – whether they fully realize it or not – maybe ask you to lead in some context. But what they may not realize is that there may be other things that are demanded for, in the role that they are calling you to, and they don't realize that those things, you are weak in, right. So, knowing that fit is important.

Two; eliminate or delegate the tasks that drain you and which you are poor at doing, okay? Because it could well be someone else's gift. Like what you are really bad at doing could well be someone else's strength. And we are not meant to do things alone. You know, as much as possible, especially if you're a leader, there are people that you're leading.

I think good leadership includes knowing where we need support and finding people that are different with complementary strengths to, you know, plug the gap. So, the second point is to remove or delegate the task that drain you and try and find the right people who can do it with you or for you.

Three; try reframing or changing the parameters of what is not working out for you. Request and ask if necessary – like communicate to your boss if you need your boss's approval, right, or team members so that they understand why these changes will help you make a greater contribution and do your job better. So, for example, I told my boss in the job interview that I can actually get the job done.

But what I need would be flexibility to be able to be out of my office and desk, right – to meet people outside of the church. And two, that I can do some work from home because I need that quiet. I need that solitude to be able to think properly. I can't be in an open space where people are talking, and other people are coming and going.

Those things would just make me really ineffective. So, see if you can change the parameters. So, in the end, I will still do the job and I can still be effective at the job if you allow me to have these parameters kind of adjusted to fit the way that I'm designed.

Okay, four; when you don't have a choice – sometimes we don't have a choice, right? And we still need to engage activities that drain us, there are limitations to the situation, or maybe you ask for certain parameters to be changed and you know it can't be done, okay? Or it's not granted to you, and you're stuck with having to do this. This is what you can do; set realistic expectations for yourself.

Okay, because it's going to take you longer to do the tasks that drain you. The results really just won't be as great as if you are doing what you're good at. I mean, be realistic there and be compassionate with yourself and remember that you're going to need to budget a lot more energy for these tasks, okay? So, it's not just that you need more time, you're going to need a lot more energy to do these tasks.

So, what this means is be realistic in terms of deadline – if you have a say in a deadline, right? And also clear more things off your plate if you are given some tasks that you know will drain you, okay? This is energy management. This is also part of self-leadership and also being, you know – part of being a responsible team member, right?

You understand more than other people would why doing certain tasks is going to be hard on you, right? Other people may not understand it. They're not you. So, it's up to you to give yourself that space and to as much as possible, let people know why you need,  you know, maybe some of these adjustments – for example, maybe a longer time to do it, or that then you need to have some other tasks taken off your plate in order for you to do this job, alright?

But look – if the limits are there and you can't change these things, then bottom line, just be very compassionate with yourself and be prepared. Don't expect such a great outcome. Okay, now, even as I'm hearing myself say this, you know, part of me is thinking, "Wow, Ann. You know, you suck at this". As in, I'm not very good at being okay with less than, you know, excellence.

Right, and part of that is a natural drive that I have. I've learned that about myself. But another big part of it is part of the script and the shame that I think that I used to have, and I used to try and be driven to avoid that shame by being excellent at everything that I do. But what I have learned – I mean painfully through burnouts and all that – is that, you know, I'm human.

You're a human, and so you can't be great at everything. And being able to accept that is going to give you a lot of relief and freedom. Right, and here's where you can see if we are more secure and more integrated in ourselves, then we'll be more okay when – let's say we get criticized or you know, our boss or somebody says, "Oh, you know this, this isn't up to usual standard of work", for example, right?

Because you would already be prepared. You know, this is not in your area of strength. So, you can just accept that, receive that, and you know, and go, "Yeah, you know, this is really not my cup of tea. You know, I really struggled with this". Right, so, okay. So, the first point was focus most of our time and energy where our gifts and strengths are because that's where we are most effective and where we can actually contribute the most. 2. Eliminate or delegate the task that drain us as much as we can, right?

And find somebody else for whom there is a better fit so that they can enjoy it. And overall, we would still find that the team can succeed. 3. Where you can, reframe or change the parameters of what is not working for you – request and ask for understanding and permission, if necessary, right.

4. Where you don't have a choice and you need to engage in the activities that drain you, set realistic expectations. Remember that your worth is not determined by always succeeding and being excellent at everything that you do. So, basically there is a maxim that's easy – you know, that's good to remember. And that is that you can do what you can do and you can't do what you can't do. Giftings are real and so are limits, okay?

If your sense of worth is not dependent on how well you can do everything or needing others to think well of you all the time, then you can be authentic about what you can and cannot do. And finally, remember that there are different kinds of leadership contexts. Okay, so, for example, you may be called upon in a certain role to provide leadership in vision.

So, a group knows where they need to head, you know, where they need to go toward. So, that’s a visionary kind of leadership. Or you might be called to provide leadership through inspiring people, you know – so, thought leadership, you know? Inspiring them to lead them towards the best version of themselves.

That's a different kind of leadership, right? Or maybe you're tasked to lead a team, a small team, to accomplish some clear goals, and then your exercising of your leadership would also require, you know, very direct kind of personal relationship management, right? Being able to motivate your team or to coordinate your team.

So, that's a different kind of leadership. Then there's also the kind of leadership where maybe, you are in a large and complex organization with multiple teams working on different projects, and there are all kinds of things overlapping. And then you would need to, in order to exercise leadership, you would need to know how to navigate some of these more complex relationships, while at the same time, making sure that your team is on task and then also care for yourself.

Right, so, there are different kinds of context of leadership. And some of us, the design that, you know, we have prime us to be better in one of these roles or these contexts of leadership and maybe not in another. Right, so just for example, I learned, and I realized, and now I've accepted – that I can't lead in a large and complex organization.

I mean, there's so many things about that that drains me because I am very much focused one-on-one, right? Or in the case of, for example, in this podcast, I'm speaking into a mic, I'm addressing, I could be addressing multiple people who are listening to this, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm speaking to each one of you individually, right?

So, I think the leadership that I can exercise more naturally, would be perhaps through inspiring you through sharing my experiences, right, to encourage and motivate you to want to move forward in your interior journey. And what I'm least good at, or what I'm weakest in, is having to lead groups or teams in a complex or large organization.

Right, so, different strengths are called for in different leadership kind of contexts. And as a start, just being aware of where we thrive and where we really suffer is important. So, in order to put to practice what I've talked about in this episode – I mean to be aware of what your strengths are, what your limits are, and then to learn how to manage yourself to be the best that you can be – given all, given all this limitations and, and gifts that you have.


You will need to invest. You will need to invest time, energy, and money. In a) okay, the first thing would be you need to invest in growing in authenticity and wholeness, right? Because this whole thing about the integration and becoming more secure is the foundation upon which we can do anything else more effectively, right?

When we are reacting out of our fear insecurity, when we are compulsively being driven by the scripts in our life with our awareness, we are not free to actually have that objectivity to handle ourselves in the way that I should described in this episode. Okay, so, the first thing we need to invest in would be growing in authenticity and wholeness, right?

Which would include learning what you know, what are the things that hold us back, the areas of blindness, the wounds that have hurt us in the past, maybe, you know? So, healing. Healing and growing in wholeness. And the second area that we'll need to invest time, energy, and money in would be learning, you know, more specifically, what our gifts and our limits are.

So, what are the specifics that help me to understand how I'm designed. Why it is that I thrive in certain conditions, and why is it that I'm really bad at other conditions? Right, just looking at things in generalities, you know, can only bring us so far. But when we have the right instruments or the right guides to help us, within a shorter span of time, we can actually gain a lot more clarity.

And that would help us know how to, you know, lean on our strengths and what other things that we should learn to delegate and so on and so forth. So, in the next episode, I will talk about how self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-leadership – how they all really come together to make us better leaders. And I will share more concretely about my own journey of discovery and learning about myself.

Okay, so in today's sharing, I kind of gave you the broad strokes. In the next episode, I will share more in depth. I'm going to share about my Myers Briggs personality and temperament, type. And I will talk about my motivation design and how these two instruments have really helped me to gain clarity and understanding of how to get the best out of myself and how I am called to lead.

So, here are the practice problems for today. One: Listen – so, as you listen to this episode today, what resonated? Were there any points where, you know, you kind of thought like, oh yeah, I know what she's talking about – I've felt that before, or I've experienced that before.

Two: Ponder – at this current point in time, how well are you able to name your strengths and your weaknesses? And how specific can you be?

Three: Act – okay, this is an exercise I invite you to do. Okay, it's a simple way of starting to gain a bit more awareness of yourself. Make two lists, okay? So, on the first list, write down all the activities you need to do in your role as a leader which energizes you and which you know you're good at.

Okay, so, look at the things that you have done in your capacity as a leader. What do you really enjoy most? What are those activities? And then on the second, write down all the activities you need to do as a leader which drains you. Okay, things that you drag your feet to do – you know that you have to do it, but you keep procrastinating because you don't want to do it.

And then when you finally do it, you know, I mean, you tend to show up poorly in it, right? It's just harder to do as good a job in these activities.

Then look at the two lists side by. Do you see any themes in them? For example, maybe in the list which energizes you, you could notice that learning is a theme that comes up, right? You might realise, oh, I keep listing activities that require me to learn new things – that actually energizes me, that motivates me.

I look forward to having to do those things where I need to learn new things. And maybe in the list of activities that drain you, you notice that they consist of activities that require a lot of logistics and planning, right? So, whenever there's work that requires you to do, you know – be very detailed about organizing something and planning something, you get drained and you're tired and you don't look forward to it.

Or maybe for you it's the reverse, right? Having to learn new things tire and drain you, and you really enjoy just having to organize complex tasks and events where there's a lot of logistics to coordinate, right? Maybe that gives you life. So, it doesn't matter. Just look at what your lists are and notice the themes in each of these lists, right?

And there may be more than one theme in each list. Just list them down. So, this is a simple example of, you know, a reflection that we can do to learn more about ourselves, and it's a kind of reflection that we do, not just once, but over and over again.

Not, you know, not like every day or every week, but maybe like every year – you know when enough time has passed, when enough experiences; you've gone through more experiences and you revisit this list because there's more data that you have now, more things that you have tried doing, and then that means that you can have more data points and looking at what are the kind of activities that really energize you and what are the activities that really drain you, right?

And the more data you have or the more data points you have, over time it becomes easier to see the developing themes. Okay, so, that's what I wanted to share with you in today's episode, and I hope that it has given you something to think about, and I will come back in the next episode and give you the continuation to what it's like to leverage on your gifts and limits in leadership.

[00:35:04] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. 

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!