Even the most successful business leaders have flaws. We’re only human, after all. What sets the great leaders apart from the pack is their ability to recognize these weaknesses. Of course, this level of self-awareness doesn’t come easily. The difficulty is, your unproductive behaviors may be invisible to you, but glaringly obvious to your staff.
According to leadership expert John C. Maxwell, a blindspot is defined as “an area in the lives of people in which they continually do not see themselves or their situation realistically.”
Leadership blind spots can be incredibly harmful not only to your career, but to the people depending on you. Experts often refer to them as “derailers” for their ability to unexpectedly disrupt your career path.
How can you eliminate this pitfall?
1. Recognize your habits.
One of the most effective ways to better understand your leadership deficiencies is to write down your key plans and priorities, and track your progress. Blindspots can sometimes be instinctive reactions to situations, which can be identified through taking notes during times of decision-making. Even Warren Buffet is known for keeping a journal where he records the reasons he’s making an investment at the time he’s making it. This allows him to look back and assess whether future outcomes were derived from sound judgment or just plain luck.
Another strategy for increasing self-awareness is to list out your strengths and examine the ways they manifest in your leadership style. Pay careful attention to the downsides of your strengths. For example, perhaps you pride yourself in quick decision-making, but you also have a tendency to cling to the status quo and avoid taking risks.
2. Take the time to truly understand your team.
Leaders need to collect feedback too. Look to implement formal processes in your workplace to encourage constructive feedback from your team. Show employees you are open and interested in their perspectives by asking questions and pursuing opportunities to learn and grow.
Encourage diverse ideas and outlooks by hiring people with talents and strengths unlike your own. According to Guy Kawasaki, leaders will too often look to hire people who are like them. This is a blindspot in and of itself. Look to hire candidates whose skills complement (rather than imitate) your own. Once you have the right team in place, seek out ways to utilize the depth of talent available.
3. Separate innovation from core business functions.
Established companies are often hesitant to innovate because they risk interfering with core business operations. But if you find a way to divide the two, then new ideas are no longer competing with legacy concepts. This will help you embrace diversity rather than shy away from it.
4. Ask for help when needed.
Is your independent streak holding you back, rather than pushing you forward? Leaders don’t need to have all the answers all the time. While it’s important to act with confidence, you need to know your limitations and be mindful of your vulnerabilities.
The greatest leaders look for opportunities to share responsibilities and decision-making authority. This not only inspires enthusiasm and participation in your team, but it empowers employees to think for themselves and put their ideas forward, leading to fresh outcomes that could bring the organization to an entirely new level.
5. Demonstrate commitment to developing your own skills.
We’ve heard it again and again: the best leaders lead by example. Show your team you are invested in fostering your own strengths and weaknesses. Actively acknowledging your leadership blindspots is a great place to start.
The feedback you collect from your team is only helpful if you leverage it. Accept your flaws, recognize what those behaviors are, and seek out appropriate opportunities to improve them.
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Howbridge is a growth advisory firm that helps companies take the next step to market leadership.