How do you define blind-spots?
Blind-spots are unrecognized weaknesses or threats that can harm a leader and his or her company.
Are there different degrees of blindness?
There are times when leaders are completely blindsided by a weakness or threat and other situations when they are partially aware of a weakness or threat but fail to understand its potential impact or the need for action.
The different types of blind-spots:
We often think of blind spots in terms of a leader’s self-perceptions and, in particular, the impact of his or her behavior. For example, a leader with an authoritarian style may believe, incorrectly, that he is being inclusive. He does not realize that his style is undermining the accountability of others (as they know that key decisions will ultimately be made by him). However, blind spots also exist in relation to the ways in which a leader views his or her team, organization, and markets. Blind spots in these other areas are equally if not more important in some situations than how a leader views him or herself.
How do we not see these blind-spots that persist despite the harm they can cause.
Some leaders get in their own way by making similar mistakes over and over. Consider the leader, smart and successful, who at times misreads others – in particular, thinking their values and motives are similar to her own when in some cases they are not. This results in a number of poor staffing decisions that hurt her and her business. This is not only a weakness but a weakness that she doesn’t recognize in herself. One way to gain awareness of your blind spots is to look for patterns in the mistakes you make over time.
The best way to ensure that blind spots don’t harm a leader:
Leaders need to create mechanisms that surface the blind spots that matter. This is the equivalent of what you find in new cars that have a blind spot warning system that signals the driver when another car has entered his or her blind spot (the area where you can’t see another car approaching). Such mechanisms are important for leaders because their own internal warning capabilities always have limitations. So you need to put into place external mechanisms that warn you when your blind spots are potentially dangerous.
Example of such a mechanism
One of the best is a confidant who knows and respects you–but will tell you when you are failing to see a weakness or threat. Savvy leaders have people who act as warning systems in different areas when a leader is viewing an issue in a distorted or incomplete manner (such as the viability of a particular strategy or the success of a new initiative). But you need at least one person, someone you trust in regard to his or her capabilities and motives, who is first among equals in offering you feedback across a variety of areas.
Also maintain that some blind spots are positive.
Most people believe that awareness is always beneficial — that we should confront reality in all situations. This view is almost always true in that denial can have devastating consequences for both a leader and his or her company. However, it is false when awareness erodes a leader’s confidence and ability to inspire others. Blind spots, in some situations, have a positive influence that both leaders and their followers need to understand. No less a leader than Steve Jobs had what his team members in the early days of Apple called a “reality distortion field.” He learned, over time, to better recognize and manage the downsides of his towering strengths.