We understand blind spots in the context of driving; areas around us where we can’t see what’s going on around us. The larger those blind spots are, the more dangerous they become. The same is true in leadership. John Maxwell defines a blind spot as “an area in the lives of people in which they continually do not see themselves or their situation realistically.”
In leadership, blindspots are usually a result of "not looking" and therefore a failure to investigate ones own weaknesses and blindspots. Either being blind to areas that need adjusting or ignoring them.
As a leader, you have to recognize that first of all, you can’t be good at everything and you will have blindspots. For me, I’d rather know what my blindspot is than have my team in the backrooms whispering about my blindspot and tip towing around me, just to keep me happy. So, I solicit my team to point those out and help me with them. It’s painful and I can get defensive, at first, but it’s good. And it’s good to admit it to your team. Then ask them to hold you accountable in that area and find someone on the team that can help you grow in that area.
Not all weaknesses are blindspots, some weaknesses may be a result from personality types.
When People Focused Becomes a Weakness
Some personality types are naturally more concerned with relationships than results. This weakness usually plays itself out by leaders not delivering desired results in a timely manner. This weakness requires learning to guide the right people to deliver results on time and on budget. So how can a people leader gain traction to be more results focused?
Well, I’d say recognize your natural strengths and weaknesses and do what you can to develop your strengths and hire your weaknesses. So, If you are a relational driven person and tend to not deliver results in a timely manner, hire someone or recruit a good volunteer who is results driven. Have them set the schedule and hold the both of you accountable for the deadlines.
Another key is to learn time management and project management skills and tricks. There are a lot of books and resources out there that can really help you develop habits in this area that will work just for you and your personality. I know, I work on this continually. In fact, this weekend, I studied an article on how to research better and more efficiently for messages using tips and tricks in Evernote. It’s going to help me a ton and free me up to do what only I can do.
When Results Focused Becomes a Weakness
Other personality types are naturally results focused to the point of burning their people out. They get things done, but their effort is often less collaborative and less team building. These often are the autocratic leaders.
Owning this tendency and weakness is key. You have to recognize who you are and where your strengths lie. So, for me, this is my natural tendency. I am very results driven and have had a track record of burning people out around me. So, one trick I’ve learned is to admit it, not only to myself, but to my direct reports — those closest to me. Then I ask them to hold me accountable in this area and to help me set the pace for our team. I give them permission to tell me when I am pushing too hard and when the team is tired. We talk about this often.
I operate at a really fast pace in so many directions at once so I also tell those around me to not feel pressured to keep up with my pace. I am not expecting my team to work like I do, because I realize not everyone is built the same way as I am or has the same set of skills or focus. That’s ok. I need them on my team BECAUSE they are different than me and have a different skill set and focus. When I admit it to myself and my team, it opens up the dialogue for us to talk openly about my weakness without repercussion and helps us set a team pace, instead of my pace.
The Assumption Pit
Leaders may assume others are like them. In business communication we call this “assumed similarity”. It’s a trap to think that because a leader thinks like you in one subject area that they think like you in all subject areas. Leaders with the same vision may easily differ in what motivates them, or in how they make decisions. Leaders who share the same values may even deal differently when resolving conflict.
But it’s vital that a leader surround himself with people who are different than him and think differently. If you hired everyone on your team who were just like you, your organization is going to have glaring weaknesses that will be crippling.
So, if you are hiring currently — staff your weaknesses — then you would immediately avoid the assumed similarity problem. If you are not sure if you have hired correctly I would suggest to a leader that they give each of their team members personality tests like a Meyers Briggs test or a DISC test. Then review the results as a team and you will begin to identify immediately your team members strengths and weaknesses, their natural tendencies and thinking patterns. This helps tremendously to understanding and appreciating your team.
The People Pleaser
Have you ever worked with a leader who just wanted to be liked? Just wanted to fit in, be loved and please everyone. They are great to be around, fun to hang out with but their weakness is usually in holding people accountable, making the hard calls and being decisive. If this is you, or you know someone like this, it's important to help this people pleaser type to see the bigger picture that produces results.
Again, I think it is good to study decisive people. Ask them how they do it and what kind of results they get by making the hard calls or by holding their team to account. When you study the results, you will quickly discover that these leaders are usually well respected and liked by their team and in fact their team seems to thrive in an accountable environment. I know I did just that. I studied some of the best church leaders in the business and I soon discovered that what made the best the best was that they were excellent at making the hard calls and at being decisive and in holding people accountable. That’s what separated them from other leaders.
When I looked at my results or at the results of other struggling leaders around me who were shrinking or plateauing in their ministries, it all came down to the fact that they just couldn’t make the tough call and it paralyzed their ministry. I remember talking to my mentor about this very thing and I commented at how easy he made making the tough calls look and he replied “Easy? The hard calls are never easy. They are painful every single time and I agonize over them just like everyone else, but they are necessary for the betterment of the organization.” When I heard that, I was relieved. Because, I wasn’t weak because I struggled with the tough calls. I was normal! And it empowered me to be bolder in making those calls when I had to.
Let’s pick on the leader who isolates themselves from their team. Not only do they shut out their best people’s input, but their disconnect may cause them to over-promise and under-deliver.
I've never understood leaders who would isolate themselves from the people. I think that is one of the first things I noticed and still one of the things I respect most about my mentor and spiritual father, Dr. George Hill. Although he is the founder and president of a worldwide ministry, he always wants to be around the people. At conferences, he doesn’t hide in a green room, coming out just before he is to step on stage to deliver his message. No, he is mixing and mingling with everyone in the foyer or sanctuary before the service and after the service. I have always found him to be very approachable. That’s one major thing that makes him a great leader in my opinion. Leaders who need to be separated from their people won’t be leading long because they won’t be able to keep the pulse of their organization, or hear the heart of the ones they lead and then will make visionary decisions based on their feelings instead of the feelings of the people they lead. It is vital a leader stays connected with their people.
What about the leader who is coasting to the finish line? They have grown complacent, stopped learning and are totally invested in maintaining the status quo of their business, organization or church’s glory days. They have probably lost their “first love” but carry on as if changing is out of the question.
If I was coaching such a leader, I would probably ask a series of questions. I would ask if they felt like their assignment was up in the organization or in the location they are in in the organization. It’s not natural for a leader to coast. Leaders hold the vision — which is always progressive and forward moving. Once the leader doesn’t have the vision he is not the leader any more. So, maybe their assignment is up. If it is, who would be the obvious replacement. Most times, leaders don’t have one.
Then I would say that that is their next assignment. Find someone to mentor and train to be your replacement. And when they are 60-80% ready, cut them loose and hand it off to them and look for your next assignment. A leader is often energized by a new challenge — so seek where the new challenge is — and if it is in your current organization, stay. If it is outside your organization, then prepare to leave responsibly.
Have you ever had a leader turn on you, going into a rage in front of the whole team? Or maybe you weren't the only victim. Leaders who are lacking in emotional intelligence are toxic not only to their team but to themselves as well. This weakness in a leader often goes unchecked because people fear them. It's often easy to recognize in others, but it's harder to identify in yourself.
I recently listened to a podcast by Pastor Craig Groeschel entitled “Fire Your Inner Boss.” In it, he described the difference between a boss and a leader. He said that a…
- A boss instills fear while a leader inspires confidence.
- A boss assigns blame while a leader takes responsibility.
- A boss demands loyalty while a leader extends trust.
- A boss controls people while a leader empowers people.
- A boss is often guarded whereas a leader is transparent.
He said, we can have control or we can have growth, but we can’t have both. Isn’t that powerful. I think my favourite quote in the podcast was “Position may give you power to control, but trust will give you permission to lead.” I think as leaders we need to look at this list and ask ourselves which one are we to our people? Are we being the boss? Or are we leading? And if you dare, ask your team which one you are — a boss or a leader?
[bctt tweet="We can have control or we can have growth, but we can’t have both. @craiggroeschel" via="no"]
The Poor Communicator
One of the major blindspots in leadership on multiple levels centres around communication. When “communication” is a weakness it is often because what leaders think is enough communication is not what their team, board or stakeholders think is enough.
I think communication is always a skill we as leaders should be working on and improving in. Our success and our organization’s success depends on it. I have yet to meet a perfect communicator, so we are all in process and my advise is that communication be a top priority to study and learn. Remember, successful communication is not what I think I said, but instead what the receiver understood I said.
[bctt tweet="Successful communication is not what I think I said, but what the receiver understood I said." username="kellystickel"]
So, if there is a breakdown in the reception of the message, then it is my fault regardless of how well I thought I communicated it. I am not communicating to people in a way that I understand, but I must communicate to them in a way that they understand — whoever 'they' is. That is an ever learning process, for all of us.
The Poor Planner
Strategic thinking is a vital skill set in organizations today because everything is moving so fast. Change is constant. Opportunities are plentiful. But leaders who are limited to managerial thinking rather than strategic thinking fall into an area of weakness. This weakness can jeopardize everything they’ve worked for. Some may even be blindsided by this weakness.
I happen to think that there are natural strategists and there are those who strategic thinking does not come natural, too. I think you need to discover which you are. If you are a leader and you are not naturally strategic in your thinking, then I would say one of your first hires should be someone who is naturally strategic. Listen to them, and pull on this gift. The ultimate decision will be yours, but the idea was theirs. You don’t always have to be the idea man to be the leader, you just need to be the one who knows which idea to follow and which one to avoid. That is usually trial and error. When it works, give your strategist the credit. When it fails, you take the blame, because you made the call to go with it. That’s what a leader does.
The Cultural Drifter
In leadership today the term “culture” is of constant discussion. Andy Stanley says the longer a leader is in an organization the more they don’t see the culture they are in. We constantly fight here to prevent drifting in our culture. We constantly evaluate everything we’re doing. And we constantly incorporate better ways of doing what we do. Leaders who don’t understand the significance of culture may be blinded to their weakness in this area.
This weakness in creating culture is detrimental to leadership today, especially in the church. Everything; every organization, every family, everything has a culture. Culture either happens by design or by default. But, culture is powerful. It is more powerful than vision or strategies.
[bctt tweet="Culture either happens by design or by default." username="kellystickel"]
The right vision in a wrong culture is doomed to fail. Culture will win every time. I think every leader must learn how to recognize and design culture in order to see their visions come to pass. For pastors, I’d recommend starting with Sam Chand’s book “Cracking Your Churches Culture Code” to better understand how to understand and design the culture of your church. It is vital, because you won’t get very far as a leader without truly understanding culture.
And pastors, we all need you to be successful and go far because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.