We all know the impact visionary leaders can create on business and people. They have the ability to transform the way a society thinks, behaves and acts. Today, more than ever, there is a strong consciousness in leaders to perfect their roles. Being ‘nearly perfect’ is not an option for many.
Sometimes, leaders are unaware of certain aspects of their leadership styles. They have a blind spot for something and fail to understand and see its importance.
While all leaders cannot be put in one bracket, there are common traits that most will identify with. The question is, whether the leaders themselves are aware of these traits.
“Not being aware of your leadership style and lack of self-insight is what leads to a blind spot in leadership,” opines Amit Vaish, director & head-HR operations and technology, Barclays. He further adds that there are formal (psychometric tests) and informal ways (casual feedback) a person can use to identify blind spots.
Tulanahina Maity Pandey, CVP & head HR-Bancassurance, points out that the biases people carry with them are leadership blind spots. “A leader who has risen internally in a company may carry conscious and unconscious biases that are a part of the company’s culture. However, when a leader comes from outside, he carries biases from his previous experiences.”
Blindspots affect the way the leaders engage their people. They impact the culture and create a glass ceiling for the employees. Blind spot leadership at multiple levels in a company can lead to failure and shut-downs.
“Not being aware of your leadership style and lack of self-insight is what leads to a blind spot in leadership”
A low level of emotional quotient (EQ) is an important cause for deficiency in performance. It creates a gap between the leaders and their relationship with the employees. “We have seen that when leaders’ EQ drops, they develop traits that they are unaware of. These limit them in behaviour and action,” says Pandey.
“I don’t think it is uncommon to have blind spots. However, there are some leaders who are very aware of their emotions and their management. And this is because they have a very high EQ,” opines Vaish.
Feedback and communication help to avoid blind spots. Removing unconscious individual and organisational biases will also help leaders become more aware of their leadership styles.
Subhro Bhaduri, CHRO, Aditya Birla Capital, says, “Being open to feedback from diverse stakeholders, such as peers, juniors and teams; listening and acknowledging unpleasant feedback with a resolve to work on it can help leaders identify blind spots.”
Bhaduri adds that having a diverse team also helps leaders obtain a wider perspective of things. Even the networks they make should have a heterogenous group. For instance, a finance head should be open to connecting with other specialists on social-media platforms.
Every team has members who like to poke holes in the smallest matter, which others ignore. Listening to these people and giving them space can help a leader uncover hidden areas.
“Being open to feedback from diverse stakeholders, such as peers, juniors and teams; listening and acknowledging unpleasant feedback with a resolve to work on it can help leaders identify blind spots”
Learning corelates with self-aware and conscious leaders. When a leader stops learning thinking he knows it all, that itself is a blind spot. “We also look at the hinge impact of reverse mentoring to see if leaders are open or not. A leader has to make a continuous effort to learn by enrolling into new courses at all levels of hierarchy,” narrates Bhaduri.
Leaders suffering from blind spots may not be performing as expected or may not have the necessary skills to do the job. But, their blind spots—whether selective or well intentioned—can prevent them from seeing the problem and hinder the growth of the employee as well as the organisation.
“We have seen that when leaders’ EQ drops, they develop traits that they are unaware of. These limit them in behaviour and action”
There is also a flip side to a blind spot says Pandey. “It can also be a strength if it is not affecting anyone in the process and scheme of things. Then the debate is always open as to when you should turn an eye to it.”