National Capital Chapter

How To Shift Negative Traits into Positive Leadership Attributes

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Guest post by Heathere Evans

My grandmother lived to 101. On her 100th birthday, I asked her to tell me how she managed to live such a successful life. “Everything in moderation,” she said with a little sparkle in her eye. Who knew that Nana’s simple wisdom would prove to be one of the most effective strategies for personal growth and professional success?

In the work I do as a leadership coach, I see over and over how hard we are on ourselves. We all have things we would like to improve. Perhaps you have a list of what you’d like to stop doing, start doing or change. But even self-improvement needs moderation or we can start thinking we’re not good enough, we’re broken. Before we know it, we’re not feeling good about where we are—ever. It’s classic destination addiction, a term coined by my mentor and friend Dr. Robert Holden that describes a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. This kind of approach to “self-improvement” is the No. 1 cause of self-induced stress.

But what if there’s actually nothing about you that needs to be fixed?

How to Evolve Our Limiting Traits
Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong or broken about any of us. Inside what we consider to be “negative” traits and behaviors we’d like to improve are simply aspects of ourselves that need to be recognized, brought to the surface and strengthened. Most often, our success depends on the ability to make that shift to the strongest parts of who we are quickly and adeptly.

Think of aspects of your (or anyone’s) personality as existing on a spectrum. Limiting traits are on the lower/weaker end and more productive traits are on the higher/stronger end. To reach our full potential, we need to learn to evolve low-end traits to the highest end of the spectrum, so they actually become personal strengths.

This level of growth often takes some coaching, but every aspect of your personality has a gift to give you. The key is to stop looking outside and start strengthening what’s within. Below are four examples of how personality traits perceived as negative are nothing less than strengths in disguise.


Self-Doubt   –> Skilled Inquiry
If you’re running self-doubt as information or evidence, then it becomes a block. But one of the most important skills of successful leaders is asking the tough questions! Give the Inner Doubter a new job—helping you build powerful skills in inquiry.

Complaining –> Requesting
Recently I worked with a team in the midst of an organizational change that had not gone well. As a result, lots of people were frustrated and complaining. What do leaders do when we notice we’re caught in complaining? Create a powerful request. The aspect of the personality that notices when things could be improved is an important part of who we are. We want to embrace it and give it a job that supports our success by making requests that improve things in our offices and our lives.

Inner Critic –> Inner Coach
The consistency of the Inner Critic is unmatched in its ability to support our success when it is shifted into the Inner Coach. The inner conversation that was negative switches over into one that is encouraging, supportive and helpful.

Relentless self-improvement can mask feelings of not being good enough and keep us from realizing the gifts of who we are. As we grow as leaders in our lives and our workplaces, let’s embrace and evolve our personalities. Here is a coaching exercise to get you started:

Coaching Exercise:  In what parts of your personality do you think “this needs to change about me” or “this needs to be fixed”? See if you can name one talent or skill you have related to it.

About the Author: Heathere Evans, APR is a leadership consultant known for her emotional intelligence workshops and coaching programs that help transform cultures, individuals and brands. She can be reached at, on LinkedIn and IG @coaching.evolved.