Every leader has blind spots. From cringy marketing campaigns to project failures to unfortunate hiring decisions, even the most talented leaders can point to things they wish they had done differently. A primary difference between an effective leader and an ineffective leader, however, is their ability to recognize blind spots and make course corrections.
Simply put, a blind spot is an area where you’re missing something. They can be hard to detect, because – by definition – a blind spot is something you can’t see. Unfortunately, they also have the potential to derail your projects.
The good news is that blind spots don’t have to send you into a tailspin. There are things you can do to identify and correct them when they happen.
Common Leadership Blind Spots
Leadership blind spots are often linked to our personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses. That’s why one of the most important things you can do to counteract them is to increase your self-awareness.
Here are some of the most common blind spots leaders deal with:
Overconfidence is a trap that often results in discounting the contributions of others, failing to listen to advice, and considering only the data that supports your viewpoint. Overconfident leaders may fail to consider alternative solutions or acknowledge potential risks of a given course of action until it’s too late.
Failing to Own Mistakes
Mistakes happen. They become blind spots when leaders fail to take responsibility for them. Leaders who constantly blame someone else when things go wrong will lose the trust and respect of their teams, and they will miss out on the benefit of learning from their experiences.
Not Considering the Perspectives of Others
This often happens when a leader assumes that everyone is coming at a problem with the same underlying set of assumptions, motivations, and values. That is rarely the case in any group of people, and it’s one of the reasons diversity should be a critical priority.
Having to Be Right Every Time
When a leader believes that they know the right answer to every question or the right way to approach every solution, they will miss valuable input from others on their team. No leader can be strong in every area. If they think they are, others will eventually stop contributing.
Failing to Delegate
When leaders micromanage their teams or take the primary role in every project, they will inevitably end up feeling overworked and underappreciated. They will also frustrate their team members. Leaders who don’t delegate often struggle with burnout and can’t understand why their team members don’t contribute more.
Seeing Only the Possibilities, Not the Risks
Many leaders are full of creative ideas. They see possibility around every corner, and they can be quick to leap into something new before considering all the ramifications. If they fail to balance this tendency by learning to assess risks and get feedback from others, they can easily overextend themselves and their teams or invest in projects that are doomed to fail.
Failure to Communicate Effectively
Ineffective communication leads to confusion and frustration, and it will eventually undermine the team’s ability to work as a cohesive unit. Communication issues can arise when leaders don’t keep team members informed during times of change, fail to communicate reasons behind decisions, don’t listen effectively, avoid difficult conversations, or don’t consider how their words may be perceived.
6 Ways to Overcome Your Blind Spots
If you recognize yourself in some of these scenarios, don’t worry. You’re not alone. These kinds of issues present universal challenges for every leader (and every team member). The key is to acknowledge that you have blind spots and work to overcome them.
Here a few things you can do to start the process:
1. Ask for feedback
Both formal and informal feedback will help you understand how others perceive you and what you are communicating to your team members.
2. Create a culture of open communication
Build a culture where suggestions and constructive criticism are the norm. If team members have questions or feel you didn’t handle something well, they should feel comfortable having a conversation with you about it.
3. Build accountability measures into your organization
Accountability measures help everyone (including you as the leader) understand expectations and gauge success. Things like goals, deadlines, performance reviews, and regular check-ins with an accountability partner help everyone on the team see where they are doing well and where there is room for improvement.
4. Audit past mistakes
When failures happen (and they will), take some time to debrief with your team. If the same things go wrong every time, that’s an indication that you’re missing a blind spot. Start by asking for feedback from team members or having a round table discussion where everyone has a chance to offer suggestions.
5. Don’t dwell in the past
At the same time, however, don’t make the mistake of dwelling in the past. Yes, failures happen, but they don’t define you or your team. Recognize mistakes, understand where blind spots may be causing those mistakes, and then move on.
6. Make course corrections
Blind spots don’t magically resolve just because you have increased awareness of them. Like any challenge, overcoming them will require a commitment to change. Brainstorm ideas with your team, create a plan, and take action.
The first step in overcoming blind spots is recognizing that you have them. Once you have removed the stigma, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more effective leader who prizes accountability and collaboration.
Our Making the Connection Leadership Series is designed to help you overcome leadership challenges and build effective leadership skills. Through targeted courses, coaching, and group discussions, we help you build the right foundation for effective leadership.
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