Sally Henderson
Executive Mentor
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Sally Henderson

From good leader, to great: tackling leadership blind spots

Introduction: What is the one thing that all great leaders have in common? I get asked this question a lot, and for me, the answer is simple. Self-awareness. Why? Because it is a trait that enables leaders to overcome the most challenging thing to tackle, their own leadership blind spots.

Leadership blind spots, by their very nature, are unseen areas of weakness that lie dormant, waiting to derail a good leader as they climb the ladder towards success. What makes the difference between a good leader, and a great one? Tackling these blind spots head on. Identifying and addressing your particular areas of vulnerability can challenge your sense of self-confidence, authority and position, but it is crucial if you want to go from merely good, to absolutely great.

Section one: What are the most common leadership blind spots?

·       Insecurity – you feel a need to look like the most important one in the room, fail to give credit and micro-manage. Confident leaders are a prop to their team, there only to help them shine. You don’t always have to be the most knowledgeable person in the room to be a great leader.

·       Lack of perspective – you see every problem as a fire that can be put out with water, and should be tackled as quickly as possible. Is it really fire? Could another approach work better?

·       Lack of alignment with values – you talk the talk, but do you walk the walk. A good leader must have strength of character so that values, thoughts and actions are all aligned. Your team will quickly see through you if you do not behave the way you tell them they much behave.

·       Lack of focus – getting distracted by the know-how to deal with the easy wins rather than tackling some of the more challenging longer term challenges and strategic thinking.  Being in the business rather than working on the business

·       Connection to the whole company- what’s the “shop floor” thinking, feeling, doing?  Is your whole company aligned behind your vision for the business?

Section two: How can you identify your leadership blindpots?

·       Actively seek out feedback and be prepared to hear/work with what you learn

·       Work with a coach for objective feedback, accurate support and guidance to fast-track development

·       Challenge yourself to write-down core skills, developing skills and aspirational skills that you need to be a high performer in your leadership role. Ask a peer or your mentor to do the same for your role and see where the similarities and differences are to for a plan for personal development

Section three: Now what can you do about them?

·       Own your vulnerabilities so they cannot own you. Now you have identified your leadership blind spots, the most important thing is that you do something. As Bram Stoker said, We learn from failure, not from success”. Embrace your weaknesses, and celebrate the fact you are aware of them. It is the GAP analysis that your business has always needed, but has, until now, been overlooked.

·       The exact solution is obviously specific to the weakness identified, but we often find the following advice helps across the board:

-      Get out of the board room and into the action.

-      Ask for help - encourage a diverse range of perspectives, admit you don’t have all the answers.

-      Show gratitude – when others excel, give them credit willingly and openly, accepting this makes you a better leader in everyone’s eyes.

-      Develop your own skills – you need continual training and coaching as much as your team do. Show a willingness to learn and you will earn respect.

-      Continually reassess – this is the key to self-awareness, it is ongoing, not a one-time fix!

·       Set clear goals to work towards and measure your progress in achieving them

·       Keep asking for feedback – understand that to make positive change takes time and resilience

·       Commit to making positive behaviour change

sally henderson