How Success Creates Leadership Blind Spots

Leadership-blind-spotsA leader’s experiences – successful and otherwise – create powerful memories that influence future decisions. Unfortunately, experience also fosters leadership blind spots.

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” ~ Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, The Road Ahead

Success boosts confidence — and while it can feel especially good, it leads to errors in thinking.

We rarely examine or analyze what led to a successful outcome, including luck’s role in the process. We automatically assume we were right on the money. Our automatic mind consequently encodes the strategies and tactics we used, along with the confidence we gained.

When we encounter a new situation, we spontaneously draw on our memories of success, without questioning whether prior strategies fit the current circumstances.

I see how this happens with the leaders I coach. A long history of accolades and achievements can potentially produce troublesome blind spots. There is danger in assuming that past results will guarantee future successes. Intuition takes over, shutting down the need for proper investigation and analysis.

The experience blind spot comes into play when you move into a new role or change jobs. It also surfaces when you’re entrenched in a job and neglect to pay attention to shifting priorities and environmental changes.

The Personality Blind Spot

Personality-based blind spots are epidemic. You cannot avoid them unless you have a high degree of self-awareness, monitor your thoughts and make frequent course corrections.

Each personality type has strengths and weaknesses. But when carried to the extreme or inflamed by stressful situations, even our core strengths can become career-damaging weaknesses.

For example, if you’re naturally optimistic, your thinking is biased toward the positive. This is usually good if you’re charged with inspiring others. But there are times when optimism backfires and leaves you blindsided by negative realities — something you miss until it’s too late.

Similarly, an affable personality usually benefits from strong interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, he may also avoid necessary conflict. For every strength, there’s a related blind spot.

Personality blind spots are often hard to discover because we value our strengths so highly. We often fail to see the downside of what works so well for us. But with increased awareness, you can train yourself to detect emerging blind spots.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I playing to the downside of my strengths?
  • How will I know when my strengths blind me to my inherent weaknesses?
  • Who can be a sounding board as I work toward increasing self-awareness?

Blind spots restrict our options. Soliciting diverse perspectives helps expand our awareness.

What are your strengths that could be setting you up for a blind spot? Think about it. It can lead to important self-awareness. Most likely, however, working with a coach will help you uncover your blind spots. If I can help, give me a call.

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