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A Mirror for Leadership Blind Spots

INFJ KiseA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (or so it seems), I took on a volunteer leadership role in a rather large organization. Given the issues we were facing, and my own strengths, one of my key priorities was to stay friends with the leaders of all of our different constituencies.

This was not a wishy-washy “let’s be kind” sort of goal, but rather an acknowledgment that certain market trends and changes in how we were allowed to conduct business meant that partnerships, mutual support, and flow of information were vital to our future. I’m good at collaboration and building trust, but with those strengths–especially if I overuse them–comes an inherent blind spot. I tend to assume everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals.

“You could say that being politically savvy is not one of my key strengths. Considering potential competing motivations of other players isn’t generally on my radar screen.”

SO…in that leadership role, I very intentionally sought out two politically savvy members of the board and told them, “Call me when I’m being too trusting. Tell me to my face when I forget to ask, ‘What’s in it for them?'” And they did. Very effectively. Thanks, Chuck and Ray–you know who you are!!

Fast forward to my being in a very informal leadership role. As always, I considered what the right priorities would be for the situation. Again, relationships were key, and I though I had the relationships in place that allowed for working toward mutual goals.

I forgot that I still had the same blind spots…”I forgot that if others are threatened, whether by market forces or by mandates beyond their control or by their perceptions of my motivations, they may see me as the enemy. I left myself wide open. The results were not fun. Or productive.

My point? You don’t “solve” your blind spots once and for all. Every strength, if overused, becomes a blind spot, if not a dangerous weakness. And we lose sight of them (that’s why they’re called blind spots!!!) without very careful attention to tools–or colleagues with different strengths–that keep us on the alert.

Take a look at the infographic I created as a reminder of my natural focuses for my current leadership role. I used the Intentional Leadership framework–12 polarities, based on research on what effective leaders do, that capture the tensions in effective leadership–to pair my goals and key reminders to watch my matching blind spots.

It’s framed. On my desk. Right by my laptop. Where I can’t lose sight of it. A mirror for keeping an eye out for what I wouldn’t normally see.

Goals are worthless if you aren’t honest about what you might overlook as you pursue them. And that holds true whether anyone is following you or not. Think about your current goals and then ask

  • Am I using a tool such as personality type as a framework to understand my blind spots?
  • To whom am I accountable? Can they give me honest feedback?
  • What has tripped me up before? How might that same blind spot trip me up now?

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Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I agree with Shawna, collaboration is essential and as Jane suggests on a behavioural level this can mean quite simply not doing the things that would lead to uncollaborative behaviours in others

  2. The need to integrate collaboration as a key leadership attribute is now a common theme in many leadership and management articles, posts and publications . The justification for this approach is straight forward. Organizations, now more than ever, are facing complex and unpredictable competitive landscape, one that is filled with new, and global, aggressive competitors.

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