Do you know what your leadership blindspots are?
It’s a trick question because, by definition, blindspots are areas where you lack awareness of your weakness. Many coaches casually refer to them as “derailers.” A leader continues to advance and climb the career ladder until an unknown weakness suddenly derails her career.
Robert Bruce Shaw in his new book, Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter, describes the 20 most common blindspots he’s seen while working as an executive coach to hundreds of professionals. He’s found that unseen weaknesses arise in four areas: self, team, company and markets.
Blindspots about yourself include:
Overestimating your strategic capability. This is often the blind spot of leaders who have strong operational backgrounds, but then get promoted into higher levels of the organization where their role is more strategic.
Valuing being right over being effective. This blind spot occurs when a leader thinks she already knows the correct answer or best course of action, and is therefore unwilling to spend additional time listening to others. She may even interrupt people, or call conversations to a conclusion. Her followers quickly learn that it’s a waste of time to raise contrary opinions and ideas.
Failing to balance the what with the how. This blind spot occurs when leaders focus only on the measurable results of the organization. In extreme situations this can lead their followers to short-term thinking, or worse, unethical behaviors.
Not seeing your impact on others. This occurs when you assume that all of your followers have the same motivations, communication style, and goals and values as you do. This leads to confusion and frustration while working together as a team.
Believing the rules don’t apply to you. At some point, many leaders develop a sense of entitlement along with their level of success, power and authority. A leader with this flaw might not think that corporate spending limits apply to her, or that expense reports need to be completed on time, or that the normal rules from IT also apply to her.
Thinking the present is the past. Often personal flaws are shrugged off and new challenges are ignored, because what has worked in the past led to the present-day success. These leaders don’t realize that what got them here may not get them to where they want to go next.
Blind Spot About Your Team:
Failing to focus on the vital few. Leaders with this flaw often focus on too many projects and details rather on the two or three key initiatives that will lead to success. The root cause could either be a desire for perfection, or being non-confrontational and wanting to put off the tough conversations and tough decisions.
Taking your team model for granted. Leaders with this roadblock create team structure based on their own desire, rather than the needs of their team members. Often a leader will put herself at the hub of the team forcing everything to go through her, becoming a bottleneck on decision making.
Overrating the talent on your team. Leaders with this flaw may value loyalty and be latching on to a team member’s prior success, either of which can blind the leader to someone’s true ability to get the current job done.
Avoiding the tough conversations. Leaders who struggle with crucial conversations send mixed messages to individual reports, which leads to unresolved issues, and in turn can frustrate other high-performing members.
Trusting the wrong individuals. When a leader creates an inner circle of key advisers, she risks closing off new ideas and seeing the reality of current situations. Inner circle members become focused on preserving their access to power, and are unlikely to deliver honest assessments if it might upset their leader.
Not developing a successor. Many leaders are focused on short-term results and advancing their own career, but they fail to consider the long-term needs of the organization and don’t spend enough time on the developmental needs of their team members.
Blindspots about your company:
Failing to capture the hearts and minds. Many leaders failed to understand how hard effective communication really is. They’re shocked when they learn that people at all levels of the organization don’t actually know the top three priorities are for the year or what the strategic plan is.
Losing touch with your shop floor. In an effort to avoid micromanagement or getting into the weeds, or because it is easy to burn through time in boardroom meetings, some leaders lose touch with layers of talent beneath them.
Treating opinion as fact. Leaders with this flaw often trust their talent and trust the communication flow more than they should. They under estimate how information can change based on time, repetition, and the self-interests of those who are sharing the information.
Misreading the political landscape. Leaders with this blind spot often hate politics, or think it is good to be apolitical. In reality, politics is necessary and good when it involves influencing with integrity those who have an impact on the organization.
Putting personal ambition ahead of the organization’s best interest. It’s easy to be committed to the company’s success when it aligns with your own personal success. Many leaders fail however to choose the company’s interest ahead of their own.
Blindspots about your market:
Clinging to the status quo. Many leaders fear change, want to protect legacy revenue streams, or are uncertain of their own role in a newly defined organization. These leaders are unlikely to accurately assess market changes and new and evolving customer demands.
Underestimating your competitors. Similar to the flaw above, these leaders are focused solely on internal issues and prior success. They do not see new threats that might be innovative or aggressively priced.
Being overly optimistic. Part of the leader’s job is to present the glass as being half-full, and to paint and optimistic future vision for their followers. But taken to an extreme, these leaders do not see the reality of their situation and fail to allocate the time or resources necessary for success.
So how can you overcome your blindspots?
The best approach is to increase your time out of the office, and broaden your number of contacts. By spending more time with more customers, more employees, and more industry thought leaders, you are more likely to see the “truth” of your situation and to take appropriate actions.
Contributor of Forbes Megazines