Every business leader has blind spots which limit their effectiveness and success, but due to ego, over-confidence, or deferential subordinates, many live totally in the dark. Some are smart and humble enough to assume that they don't know what they don't know, but lack an effective process for shining a light on their blind spots. Both are equally surprised by their every setback.
I recently found some real insight on this subject in a new book by Robert Bruce Shaw, aptly named "Leadership Blindspots." Shaw specializes in organizational performance and has helped a wealth of business leaders identify and overcome their weaknesses. He provides a detailed analysis of the blind spots of many well-known business powerhouses, including Steve Jobs of Apple, Ron Johnson at JCPenney, and Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase.
Shaw argues that every successful leader balances two conflicting needs. The first is to act with a confidence in their abilities and faith in their vision for their organization: The second is to be aware of their own limitations and avoid the hazards that come with overconfidence and excessive optimism. That means that they have to see themselves and situations accurately.
I agree with him that the best way to do this is to continually ask the right questions, in the right way, to identify blind spots. Here are some key guidelines that he offers to drive this process:
In today's global business world, you should assume that all your peers are smart and experienced, but have blind spots just like you. These are automatic behaviors that are not flaws, but they do need to be identified and mitigated by continually asking the right questions as outlined here. Otherwise they will undermine your organizational performance and may well destroy your legacy when you least expect it. Early learning is a lot easier than a later recovery.
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