Member Login

How Mindful Leaders Overcome Blind Spots

Leadership Blind Spots

No matter how hard we try to be self-aware, everyone—including the best leaders—has unproductive behaviors that are invisible to us but glaring to everyone else.

A blind spot is a performance-hindering mindset or behavior of which you’re unaware or have chosen to overlook. A recent Business Week article cites some important research:

  • A Hay Group study shows that an organization’s senior leaders are more likely to overrate themselves and develop blind spots that can hinder their effectiveness.
  • A study by Development Dimensions International, Inc., found that 89 percent of front-line leaders have at least one skills-related blind spot.

The Hay research suggests that, as executives rise within an organization, the less likely they are to see themselves as others perceive them. They often lose touch with those they lead—not surprising, given their increased isolation and the executive suite’s “rarified” atmosphere. As they reach the pinnacle of their profession, they have fewer peers and greater power. Honest feedback and open dialogue often become rare commodities. This poses a serious problem, as researchers have found a direct correlation between high performance and inaccurate self-awareness.

We can group the most common blind spots into five key categories:

1. Experience

2. Personality

3. Values

4. Strategy

5. Conflict

The Experience Blind Spot

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

Thus, 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.

The Personality Blind Spot

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.

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?

The Values Blind Spot

When your attitude and emotions are out of sync with your values, you become uncomfortable and unbalanced. What we say and do is incongruent with what we believe and who we are.

Values blind spots can occur on a personal or group level. They are particularly insidious when you’re somewhat aware of them, but fail to take appropriate corrective action.

In business situations, a values blind spot can affect large groups. Can you think of a time when an implicit incentive to maintain the status quo conflicted with a change initiative? That’s a typical values blind spot in action.

Strategy Blind Spots

Organizations often reward conformity and punish critical or questioning voices.

When a collective worldview becomes self-reinforcing around a set of practices, assumptions or beliefs, there is potential for groupthink. Creativity and agility suffer because conformance is valued above change, and risk is discouraged.

Strategy blind spots can occur in any organizational area. Unfortunately, they’re often spotted in hindsight, after an important opportunity is missed.

Leaders who prize openness and transparency have the best chance of spotting strategy blind spots. They encourage input at all levels, fostering a culture of trust where ideas are honestly debated.

The Conflict Blind Spot

Conflict can be healthy in relationships and organizations where trust has been established. Diverse perspectives challenge tunnel vision and the status quo, while promoting learning and innovation. When issues are constructively debated, new solutions emerge.

But it’s human nature to want to defend and win an argument. Conflict becomes destructive when positive energy turns negative and erodes trust. Empathy and insight are tossed aside when we filter incoming information through the lens of what we believe and want. We categorize others as the enemy, who must be wrong.

Instead of debate, conflict becomes a power struggle that prevents you from seeing any solution (other than winning your point).I

You need to reactivate your higher intelligence to find your way out of a conflict blind spot. Slow the discussion; perhaps even take a break. Breathe deeply and re-center yourself. When you return to discussions, acknowledge common ground instead of focusing on gaps.

Overcoming Blind Spots

A blind spot’s effects may not show up right away. Without paying careful attention, you may miss the warning signs. It’s therefore critical for you to proactively work toward discovering them, before you feel the effects.

Consider working with an executive coach. Also take a look at past or current struggles to determine whether blind spots have hindered your performance. What can you learn from your mistakes? What would you do differently in the future? Reframe situations from others’ perspectives.

When you have a vague awareness of a blind spot, fight against the normal psychological inclination to remain anchored in safe, established patterns.  

You can develop these qualities by working with an executive coach. The investment is well worth the reward: your ability to influence the future, your career and your personal-development capabilities.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to help leaders put positive leadership into action? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to be more mindful? Positive leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more compelling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a positive leader who helps individuals and organizations achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders develop more positive teams.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture positivity in the workplace. You can become a positive leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area Executive Coaching Firm Helping Innovative Companies and Law Firms Assess, Select, Coach, Engage  and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Executive Coaching; Leadership Development; Performance-Based Interviewing; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; Culture Change; Career Coaching and Leadership Retreats

...About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Trusted Advisor to Senior Leadership Teams

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies select and develop emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter:
Visit Maynard's Blog: 
Connect with me on these Social Media sites.




Box 1009, East Greenwich, RI 02818
Phone: 401-884-2778
Fax: 401-884-5068
© Society for the Advancement of Consulting. All Rights Reserved. Web Site Design and Hosting by
WebEditor Design Services, Inc.