I was driving home late at night, anxious to return home. As I passed the car in front of me, it made a sharp turn into my lane without warning. Fortunately for me, I was able to swerve immediately onto the shoulder of the road, narrowly missing a high-speed collision. For reasons I will never know, the driver I passed that night neglected to check their side mirrors or turn to gauge their blind spot.
According to medical scientists, the human eye contains its own tiny functional blind spot the size of a pinhead. The blind spot in the human eye is due to its structure and lack of photoreceptors. Scientists tell us that each of our eyeballs has a visual field that overlaps with the other. This overlap then compensates for our blind spots. Our brains can fill in missing information, and we remain blissfully unaware that we have natural blind spots.
Unfortunately, blind spots are not just in our eyeballs or car lanes. They can also exist within our leadership style.
Have you ever worked for a leader who seemed oblivious or unaware of the impact of their actions? How did this person’s lack of awareness affect your commitment to the team? How did it feel to be led by someone who had not identified their potential blind spots?
Many years ago, I worked for a leader who was very exclusive with team input. For reasons unknown to me, this leader highly favored one person’s input more than any others. At times, various people on our team would offer alternative suggestions to the leader, but the opinion of the “favored” one always won out. The result of this exclusivity was a toxic working environment. Everyone knew that if the one team member did not agree with an idea, it would not happen.
As time went on, suggestions and ideas became fewer and communication minimal. Eventually, I learned that our leader and this team member had a shared history, one in which their families had both navigated an intense crisis together. This leader had then developed a blind spot due to his sense of responsibility toward my team member. Regrettably, that blind spot was now having a detrimental effect on team morale and organizational results.
The good news is leaders can avoid blind spot collisions in their organization by identifying and acknowledging potential blind spots. Consider these three questions which may help you identify your blind spots:
- How has your vision of reality been distorted through difficult experiences?
- Whose voices are you automatically discounting or preferring?
- What might your team or close family members say are your potential blind spots?
Uninformed leaders can be influential demotivators. Gauge your leadership blind spots, and you might avoid that next collision within your organization.
Erik Dees is a partner with Milestone Leadership. Milestone Leadership’s mission is to “Build Leaders Worth Following.” He can be reached by phone at 319-504-3083. The opinions expressed are those of the author.