The Value of a Self-Aware Leader


Have you ever looked through a microscope for the first time? It's amazing, isn't it? You see all these things that you never knew existed, right there in front of you the whole time. It's similar to the blind spots we have as leaders. We can be so focused on what we're doing that we don't realize what's happening right under our noses. But if we take the time to step back and really look at our organizations, we'll start to see the areas where we need to make changes. We'll see the problems that need to be fixed and the opportunities that we're missing out on.

The idea of a blind spot is brilliantly illustrated in the wonderful New Yorker cartoon. To the  clowns, being a clown is normal. Therefore, a portrait of a corporate executive who is lacking makeup, a red ball for a nose, and a bald wig seems unnatural, ‘expressionless,’ and disturbing!  The man is so eerily…. featureless!

These are four blind spots I see in today’s leaders.

#1 Locked-in thinking in terms of one’s own leadership approach

As a leader, it's important to always be learning and evolving your style as you gain more experience. One trap that many leaders fall into is "locked-in thinking" where they get stuck in the leadership approach they formed in their 20's and don't adapt as they grow older and gain more experience. This can limit your effectiveness as a leader and make it difficult to relate to and connect with people who have different perspectives. It's important to be aware of this trap so that you can avoid it and continue to develop your leadership skills over time.

#2 Confirmation seeking

Leaders often seek confirmation from their subordinates because they only receive filtered information. In an environment where one is a senior leader, there are often very few people who speak up and straight to you. Therefore, one starts to get a filtered view of the world. This can be detrimental because it leads to confirmation bias, which is when people only seek out information that confirms their preexisting beliefs. This can make leaders close-minded and resistant to new ideas. It's important for leaders to be aware of this bias and make an effort to seek out divergent perspectives. This can be done by talking to people outside of their immediate circle, encouraging dissent, and being open to criticism. By doing this, leaders can avoid making decisions based on confirmation bias and instead make informed decisions that are in the best interest of their organization.

#3 Locked-in thinking in terms of own organization and market

In business, it's important to be able to think outside the box. But sometimes, organizations can get too comfortable with their own way of doing things, and they can become reluctant to change. This is known as "locked-in thinking." Locked-in thinking can lead to missed opportunities and a failure to adapt to new market conditions. It can also prevent organizations from seeing the potential in new technologies or new approaches. To avoid locked-in thinking, it's important to encourage open-mindedness and creativity within an organization. Encouraging employees to challenge assumptions and think differently can help to break down this type of thinking. It's also important to encourage customers and other stakeholders to give feedback, as this can give organizations a fresh perspective. By being open to new ideas, organizations can avoid becoming locked into outdated ways of doing things.


 #4 Remote image

In today's business world, more and more communication is happening remotely, through email, phone, and web meetings. But while this might be the new norm, it can also create a blind spot for leaders who are unaware of their remote image.

When we communicate remotely, we can't rely on body language or other nonverbal cues to convey our message. This can make it easy to come across as abrupt or even rude, when that's not our intention. And since email is often seen as a permanent record, any missteps in our remote communication can have lasting consequences.

That's why it's so important for leaders to be aware of their remote image, and to take steps to ensure that they're conveying the right message when they're communicating remotely. One way to do this is to make sure that your written communication is clear, concise, and polite. Another is to pay attention to your tone of voice when you're speaking on the phone or in a web meeting. By being conscious of your remote image, you can avoid misunderstandings and build better relationships with your colleagues, clients, and customers.

Everyone has blind spots - areas where we are clueless, make consistent mistakes or have biases that get in the way of our success. But when you have a leadership position, blind spots can be especially dangerous. That's because there are two factors at play: 1) you probably will have more and new blind spots because of your leadership position; 2) because of your position, people are less likely to make you aware. In other words, as a leader, it's easy to fall into a trap of thinking you know everything and that your judgement is always correct. This can lead to serious consequences for yourself and your team. That's why an active investment in analyzing one's own leadership blind spots is key. By taking the time to reflect on your own behavior and decision-making, you can identify areas where you need to improve. This self-awareness will help you make better decisions, avoid costly mistakes, and become a more effective leader.

By Dean Miles

Keywords: Business Continuity, Mental Health, Startups

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