How to Discover Your Leadership Blind Spot
What leaders can’t see?
Have you ever been frustrated by something someone on your leadership team did, or something they failed to do, time and time again? You could see their mistakes and the repercussions, but they were oblivious. They may even have taken pride in their misguided behavior! Most likely, they couldn’t understand your perspective because they were focused on one specific thing; their tunnel vision stopped them from seeing the full picture. It happens to all of us, until we find the courage to look at ourselves more honestly.
The mind is exposed to far more data than it can process and bring to conscious awareness. Typically, we notice what we look for, and we don’t see what we are not ready to see. When leaders hold a strong judgement for a particular trait or behavior, they tend to over-correct and go too far in the opposite direction.
The problem with over-correcting
Let’s look at common examples of trying too hard to avoid one thing, and as a result, creating imbalance and causing other problems.
Typical scenario 1: Administrators who highly value people and relationships can, at times, shy away from leading and owning their authority.
Not wanting to control or over-power others can lead someone to shy away from decision-making all together, especially for sensitive issues.
Being afraid of damaging relationships can make someone hide the truth, avoid conflict or confrontation, or even avoid important and necessary conversations.
Fearing disappointing someone can lead people to over-promise and under-deliver.
Seeking consensus on everything can paralyze a team and halt improvement and innovation.
Being uncomfortable taking credit for their own work can make administrators struggle with advocacy and politics.
Typical scenario 2: Administrators who highly value accuracy, timeliness, and performance can sometimes hurt employees’ confidence and motivation.
Seeking perfection can make a leader hyper-critical and unable to forgive mistakes, creating a stressful work environment.
Seeing situations as black and white can stop someone from understanding the complexity of human behavior and being able to work with people who have a different value system.
Self-imposed pressure can make administrators impatient and frustrated when others are not able to keep up with their demands.
Looking for problems to fix can make them forget to acknowledge success and show appreciation to their employees.
Lacking empathy and sensitivity to other people’s limitations renders them unable to help, train, and empower others.
Being attached to seeing things happen “as they should” can make individuals less able to cope with challenges or even with the unknown.
What’s your blind spot?
When I ask clients to describe their leadership philosophy, their professional identity, or their core values as they relate to their jobs, they all have one thing in common. They make tremendous efforts to embody their values, but their efforts are not necessary. These core values are fundamental to who they are, and they couldn’t hide them even if they tried!
For example, people who seek perfection and want people to know how high their standards are, don’t need to show how perfect their work is for people to notice. Their obvious dedication and attention to details is clear to everyone through their work, their words, and their attitude. Their insistence doesn’t give them more credibility, but it makes people tense and feeling inadequate in comparison.
What about you? Where are you trying too hard and creating imbalance? Misguided efforts often come from two types of past experiences: childhood “programming” and negative experiences with “bad bosses”.
Let me ask you, what did your parents raise you to be, or to do, in order to be a good person and earn their approval?
Next, think of terrible administrators that negatively affected you. What did they do? What were the consequences? How did it make you feel? After going through these experiences, what did you promise yourself you would never be or never do?
How to find balance
Once you have looked at the value system that was given to you when you were growing up, it’s time to look at it with fresh eyes, now that you are an adult, and re-evaluate what continues to be true versus what no longer serves you.
For example, you may have been raised to be considerate and respectful. That is wonderful and you don’t have to change that, but if it stops you from having healthy boundaries and asserting yourself, you need to find balance. Define for yourself what being considerate and respectful means to you. You might want to speak to people with kindness and understanding but not let them walk all over you. You might listen to people’s input but not let them manipulate you or make you feel guilty when you don’t agree with them.
In regard to not being or acting like terrible bosses you have had in the past, the solution is the same. Write down what your intention is and what you will do to be in alignment with your intention, without over-doing it or over-correcting.
Changing beliefs that we acquired in childhood or changing how we lead is harder than it seems because most choices and behaviors are not even conscious. You may also feel conflicted because your perspective is too narrow to see what balance would mean for you. I strongly recommend you work with a qualified coach to help you see your patterns clearly and free yourself from them.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. For more information, visit ThrivingInAdmin.com