Knowing and recognizing leadership blind spots

Identifying unknown negative and positive character traits is a delicate but worthwhile effort

Bhavna Dalal
Updated: Dec 26, 2016 10:30:25 AM UTC

Bhavna Dalal ( www.bhavnadalal.com) is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners [www.talentpowerpartners.com] a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India. She is a Team Leadership Coach with ICF PCC Certification, IIM Calcutta Executive MBA, and B.E.(Electronics). Also, the author of the book Team Decision Making [https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01MXF5QEM] endorsed by former CEO's of Target, Lowes, LimitedBrands,bank of Baroda, 3M , Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Dr. Manoj Pardasani (Associate Dean Fordham University) and many others. Bhavna has been serving on the Board of Directors of Bodhi Education Society (A not-for-profit that supports schools in rural Andhra Pradesh in India ) for the past 5 years.

Photo; Shutterstock
Photo; Shutterstock

The mark of a great leader is that they are constantly trying to improve themselves. They understand that they are human, not perfect and often don’t know what they don’t know.

In our anatomy, the blind spot is the point of entry of the optic nerve on the retina. Insensitive to light, it is considered to be an area where a person’s view is obstructed. We have visual blind spots while driving a car, those parts of the road that cannot be seen through any of the mirrors. Similarly we also have psychological blind spots: Aspects of our personalities that are hidden from our own view. These may be annoying habits like bragging or interrupting, or they may be deeper desires or fears that are extremely threatening to acknowledge to oneself. Although it’s generally not very pleasant to come face to face with these aspects of ourselves, doing so can be very useful when it comes to personal growth, it facilitates improving our relationships with others—key skills for great leaders. Blind spots are not always necessarily negative traits or weaknesses.

A personal example of a blind spot for me used to be not seeking support (this trait is often seen in leaders not good with delegating). Once pointed out in a coaching session, I realised how much burden I was putting on myself subconsciously by not acknowledging the need for support. Another example of a blind spot could be not knowing you are a perfectionist, hence taking too long on a task much to the discomfort of the rest of the team.

Of course, the most important thing is to want to know your blind spots. The willingness and eagerness to explore your own limiting behaviours and thought patterns is a great step towards self awareness. When you are oblivious to something, there is a strong possibility that you are not familiar with it, allowing an opportunity for improvement. Most likely it is acting as an invisible boundary that limits your experience in life. When you uncover your blind spots and work on them actively, you become more conscious of your own strengths and opportunity areas and the boundaries you operate within. The problem is if you don’t expose and uncover these blind spots you will never be able to work on them, simply because you are not even aware of their existence.

So how can you know what your blind spots are? At senior positions, people will often not come forth and give you critical feedback. Yes, the company’s performance, engagement surveys, the board, etc, will give you indicators on how you are doing. However, if you want phenomenal growth, happy employees, customers, colleagues and all other stakeholders it becomes quite important for you to try and find out what you don’t know about yourself.

Soliciting genuine feedback becomes crucial and very important. Many organisations now include 360 feedback surveys for their senior-most team too. Executive coaches are now commonly employed by high-performing executives to show them the mirror and help them get to the next level.

Your own family often gives hints and it helps to pay close attention to their laments about you.

Leadership development trainings and retreats are another popular and effective way to learn about yourself and your personal blind spots.

Another approach is to consciously spend some time out of the office, and broaden your number of interactions. By spending more time with customers, employees, cross discipline industry thought leaders, you are more likely to see the truth of your situation and take appropriate actions.

Often sitting alone and reflecting or journaling will give you several insights about why you do what you do. Blind spots can be found in strong reactions. An unusually strong negative or positive reaction or stance by you may suggest engagement in a process indicating unacceptable or undesirable impulse into its opposite. When you like or dislike a person or situation too strongly it’s good to explore deeper the underlying feelings.

Whether we do this on our own or with the support of others, uncovering blind spots can be a delicate process. Having an accepting and understanding attitude and knowing that we all experience it, is likely to make it less painful and more useful and effective.

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