In a study conducted by Hay Group, it was found that the senior leadership team in an organization are more likely to overrate themselves and develop blindspots that will eventually hinder their effectiveness as leaders. Another study by DDI found that 89 percent of front-line leaders have at least one blind spot in their leadership skills. Robert Shaw in his book called “Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses that Matter” says, “leaders get into trouble when they don’t know what they don’t know in the areas that matter”. Which brings us to this question: Why do we develop blindspots?
Modern Neuroscience has demonstrated that seeing oneself in a bad light involves a higher mental effort. And being critical of oneself is not only draining but also diminishes person’s self-esteem. Thus the reasons for developing blindspots can also be subtle that we miss them easily. In many cases, a particularly dominant strength usually has an associated blindspot. For example, a result-oriented manager who exercises strong control is likely to run the risk of becoming a micromanager.
Identifying and fixing such challenges is a key part of a leader′s job and an important exercise that will elevate the “good to great”. Here are a few tips to help conquer blindspots:
Consider the perspectives of others: Studies show that only 15 percent of a person's success is determined by job knowledge and technical skills, and 85 percent is determined by an individual's attitude and ability to relate to other people.When leaders depend excessively on their own judgement and avoid difficult conversations, they tend to blame others. This dent on their attitude can in itself develop into a leadership blindspot. It is important therefore that leaders spend time with their customers, industry thought leaders and even their own employees who can give them perspectives that the senior leadership might not be thinking about.
Mentorship and Coaching: A trusted mentor or a coach cannot only give honest feedback, they can also enable leaders to overcome their shortfalls. Apart from senior mentors, leaders are also increasingly turning to their peers to help them identify and tackle blindspots. Coaching helps leaders reflect on the following questions:
• What are the most significant mistakes I have made throughout my career?
• What were the causes of each mistake?
• Are there patterns or common elements across these mistakes?
• What actions are needed on my part to prevent these mistakes occurring again in future?
Seek discomforting data: It is important for leaders to seek data that challenges their assumptions about not only themselves but also about their team, company and the markets. According to Shaw, this can be done through 360-degree assessments, rigorous reviews of strategic performance metrics and deep dives into targeted areas of the business. Additionally, in order to understand the marketplace, they can identify new entrants and study competitors in teams.
Reflect on your leadership style and habits: List all of your strengths, and reflect on how they manifest themselves in your leadership style to ensure that you are in line with your development goals. Additionally, review your habits and reactions. What causes stress? What causes you to lose your focus? What motivates you? And what gives you confidence?
Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Ford, and Richard Branson are among a host of great leaders who are also known for their blindspots as much as their leadership.While the fear of confronting blindspots can hinder the progress of a leader, especially when the fear is to do with feeling marginalized or admitting that they contributed to a failure, it is having these open, honest conversations that help build trust in a leader. If there’s one characteristic that great leaders share, it is the constant desire for self–improvement. Good can always be better.