Leaders travel challenging roads on the journey to individual and organizational growth.
Sometimes, the way is clear. Other times, the best path is obscured, or the “sure thing” turns out to be a dead end.
At all times, it helps to be open, curious and attentive to information or feedback.
What you don’t notice may hurt you. Rarely are signs so obvious as the “Blind summit” warning I encountered on a narrow mountain road.
Especially when things are going well, it’s easy to ignore or dismiss valuable input. It’s important to look out — actively — for blind spots.
I write from experience: I’ve faced the consequences of poor vision at important junctures in my career, and I have observed well-intentioned leaders, attached to their blinders, fall into big, fat potholes.
What have I learned from those I’ve helped to navigate the perilous paths of personal or organizational growth?
Those who thrived through roadblocks, detours and complexity share characteristics, including resilience, optimism, confidence, curiosity, courage and self-awareness. I value all these qualities, but I’m most impressed by leaders who are curious, courageous and self-aware. They have the guts to explore their blind spots!
Effective leaders listen, learn, pay attention to what works and — if necessary — start again based on new or more accurate information. They seek input from outside sources and ask important questions, like “how is this working (or not)?” or “what am I missing?”
Rather than resting on successful track records, “tradition,” or educational credentials, wise leaders question the status quo. They challenge others to stop, look, listen and learn. They have the courage to change direction, even when it’s uncomfortable… even when they may be perceived as a “weak.” They are dedicated to learning and development for themselves, colleagues and the organization.
Unfortunately, courageous leader-learners seem to be in the minority. However, I’ve been very fortunate to work with some who are brave enough to explore blind spots.
One final thought: the more we learn and uncover our “blind spots,” the more we realize how little we know. What do you think?