MANAGING YOUR LEADERSHIP BLIND SPOTS
Navigating through peak hour traffic on the highways of Johannesburg, especially during the rainy season, can be a daunting task. The unpredictability of a mini bus taxi driving in front of you or the weaving of motorbikes in between lanes, awakens the Lewis Hamilton within me. One always needs to be in a state of high alert with regard to blind spots. A blind spot in a vehicle refers to an area around the vehicle that cannot be observed by the driver whilst driving, under existing circumstances.
Just like in driving, in our leadership journey there might be things that can cause great harm and might even be fatal, if we do not react to it timeously. If not attended to, these entrenched patterns of thinking and behaving (admittedly, sometimes unknown to us) can negatively influence the manner in which we relate to other people. John Maxwell defines a leadership blind spot as ‘’An area in the lives of people in which they continuously do not see themselves or the situation realistically.”
Perfectionism is a fallacy, we all have at some stage of our lives blind spots; period! Paul’s advice in Romans 12:3 (AMP) is quite instructive “ … I warn everyone among you not to estimate or think of himself more highly than he ought, not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance, but to rate his ability with sober judgment…”
SOME CRITICAL LEADERSHIP BLINDSPOTS THAT WE HAVE TO MANAGE
1. Misalignment of expectations
In a business partnership, employment contract or service level agreement, there should be no ambiguity on roles and responsibilities or rights and privileges from both parties. Nothing should be assumed; there should be clarity and alignment of expectations. If we fail to do that, when expectations are not met, our default position will be blaming and naming.
Once you are indecisive and vacillate from opinion to opinion, meeting after meeting, you are exposing yourself and the organization to undue risks. The people we lead needs clarity. Certain things can’t be kicked to touch, you owe it to your followers to come up with a cogent plan of action.
3. The strategic operational divide.
Some leaders that might have deservedly came through the ranks to the top, allow themselves to be sucked into their operational forte under the guise of being hands on. What they forget, is that there new role warrants from them to have a bigger picture perspective and be ahead of the pack in pursuit of vision and strategy implementation.
4. The Mac Gyver on your team
We are sometimes blinded in our recruitment practices to hire the most daring, adventurist and impressive in town. Your hiring should not only be based on competence, but equally important on organizational chemistry and character. Charisma is cyclical, character is enduring. Also ensure that you hire people on your team that can stretch and challenge your own perspective and not just a bunch of praise singers.
5. Being part of a sub group in the bigger group
It is natural to have an affinity for certain people in our different engagements but that should never be at the expense of group cohesion. Never become part of a clique or camp. Once you are identified to be a member of a specific camp and one of the influential members of your camp has a setback, you will go down with all of them by association. Never operate on sponsored views; be your own man/ woman.
6. Playing to the gallery
Leaders who get their affirmation from popular appeal, run the risk of doing things to please the crowds instead of being truthful to the game plan. The same crowds that always sing your praises, can also in one bad performance be very unforgiving and boo you off the field. Like a conductor of a symphony orchestra, turn your back to the crowds and focus on the correct interpretation of the musical script. If well performed, the audience will applaud you at the appropriate time.
Sometimes leaders can get so overwhelmed by the trappings of power, that they would not like to rock the boat. In the process they turn a blind eye to stuff that is glaringly in need of change and waste a lot of time and effort to manage the status quo. Leadership is not about conforming but transforming. Are you a thermometer or are you a thermostat?
The old adage about if you snooze you lose, has driven many a leader to some very risky behavioral patterns. Working 18 hours a day seven days a week, is not a virtue. You should develop a rhythm in your life; working and resting, speaking and listening, engaging and reflecting.
ADJUSTING THE MIRRORS
How do we ensure that we are always in a state of high alert about blind spots and have full sight of our immediate surroundings?
1. Staying on course through self-awareness:
A leader’s strength lies in his/ her ability to develop self-awareness. This warrants continuous reflection about the dynamics in my internal and external environments and its impact on how I relate to other people. I have developed the habit of engaging in what I call a Strategic Pause, by asking the following key questions daily and after every engagement – What Happened? What’s Missing? What’s Next? This enables me to approach every day and every engagement with a sense of intentionality and make the necessary strategic shifts timeously. Reflection is indeed a game changer. I would strongly recommend that you get into the habit of setting aside time in a structured manner, to listen what your soul is saying to you.
2. Develop and nurture key relationships in your life
For a relationship to be meaningful, requires from both parties to be completely honest, transparent and even vulnerable. In this kind of atmosphere, we can share not only our successes but our failures, not only our strengths but our shortcomings and also express our deepest doubts and fears. Relational integrity is about learning to tell others not only the truth, but the whole truth.
We cannot be everything to everybody; learn the art of saying no if it derails you from your purpose. You should never become a proxy for the agendas of other people. Setting priorities will inform our choices on best utility of our time and resources. Maintain a balance between your public and private life, your vocational and family life, your natural and spiritual life. If there is disproportionate attention given to the one area at the expense of the other, (how justifiable it might be) you will fall into error and the consequences might be irreparable.
May I ask you to just spend a few minutes to seriously reflect on this critical question- Do I have a blind spot?
The market place is a very competitive space where everyone pushes hard to put up the best image, subtly engaging in attention grabbing activities and appears to be on top of their game. What will ultimately sustain you and distinguish you from the crowd in the long term, is your ability to have a firm grasp of your blind spots. The key is to always be cognizant of the interplay between your internal and external environment and its impact on how you relate to other people. This can only be accomplished by leveraging authentic feedback. If there is an adjustment to be made, decide on it right now. If you continue on your merry way without fixing it, it can be harmful or even be fatal.
Enjoy the journey!