Leadership Barometer 97 Blind Spots

In my classes and consulting work on leadership, I often discuss the concept of a blind spot where the worst leaders are often blissfully unaware of their problems.

My own observation in numerous organizations is that this is abundantly true. HR Managers and subordinates often are frustrated at not being able to communicate how leaders undermine the very cause they wish to pursue due to this blindness.

Daniel Goleman, who invented Emotional Intelligence, observed that leaders who are most deficient in EI are the ones who have the biggest blind spots.

They simply cannot see themselves as others do, so they are deceived into thinking incorrect thoughts about how they are coming across.

How can you remove the blind spot of a leader who has low Emotional Intelligence?

My own ideas on this topic are contained in this article.

You Need a Mirror

For many years, I have been intrigued that it is nearly impossible to see one’s self as others do. I focus on this conundrum from the standpoint of a leader, since leadership training is the center of my business.

Many leaders are unaware that they are deceiving themselves with ideas about how others are reacting to them. They need a better mirror.

I pondered the validity of Goleman’s observation for several years. Typically, when I asked leaders or students of leadership, whether Goldman’s observation is consistent with what they see in their environment, they enthusiastically agree, once they understand what Goleman was actually saying.

The idea is that leaders cannot know how others see them. Therefore, leaders with low Emotional Intelligence usually are unaware that they have this problem.

They believe people at work are enthusiastically behind them and have complete respect in them as their leader. Of course, when you talk to the people being led, the exact opposite observation is closer to the truth. They typically observe that the leader is simply clueless.

The Role of Humility

Why is it that leaders often are blind to their own incompetence? Is it hubris? Is it ego? Is it overdrive? Is it stupidity? I believe the truth is that all of these things are in play. For many leaders, the lack of humility is one of the most significant impediments to see themselves accurately.

In my work, I teach that the ability to build trust between people in an organization allows a leader to see him or herself more accurately than ever before. The reason is, when trust is high people are not afraid to tell the leader when he or she is acting like a jerk.

In fact, people understand the leader will reward them for pointing out foibles when they occur. That means leaders who are able to accomplish an environment of high trust have a major advantage. Trust is like the surface of the mirror that allows leaders to be able to see themselves accurately.

If you want to understand how you are coming across as a leader, your best bet is to work on building an environment of higher trust.

Reinforce Candor

In my book, I describe reinforcing candor as a key method for building trust. I believe if people feel it is safe to bring up scary stuff, they will be more inclined to share their truth on a daily basis. When leaders reinforce people for speaking out, it allows trust to grow and gives them the opportunity to be able to view themselves as they never have in the past.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.


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