Leaders must constantly be on the lookout for impending doom. Only then can they swerve to avoid it. Fortunately, many catastrophes are preventable. Unfortunately, the catastrophes may be the result of the leader themselves. Just ask George Costanza.
George Costanza is part of the socially-challenged quartet on the show Seinfeld. George has been through peaks and valleys in his job history; although the valleys far outweigh the peaks. On those rare occasions when George is excelling, he tends to sabotage his success. This typically occurs due to his blindspots.
In the book Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter, Robert Bruce Shaw defines blindspot as “unrecognized weaknesses or threats that can harm a leader and his or her company.” To an observer, George’s (and many other leaders’) weaknesses are apparent. The individual, however, may have a different perception; hence, their blindspots.
Based on Shaw’s research, the following are some of the more common blindspots experienced by leaders:
Valuing being right over being effective. How many arguments has George Costanza had because he needed to feel triumphant while simultaneously damaging whatever chances he had of furthering his agenda? Both at work and in his personal life, George “wins” a debate but loses something far greater.
This blindspot is common amongst leaders who believe they know it all. They are not open to feedback and shun dissent. This will lead to a loss of great ideas. We have great people around us. Listen to them. Ask questions that garner input. Treat your subject matter experts like experts.
Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.
Believing the rules don’t apply to you. George is generally ambivalent about rules – he understands the rules, but is not overly concerned with following them. When George builds a secret compartment under his desk, he knows it’s wrong to sleep in his office. Leaders often try the same scheming tactics.
Whether it’s an arrogant personality that helped the leader accumulate power or a sense of entitlement resulting from power, leaders who blatantly ignore the rules are setting a dangerous precedent. More than most, leaders are being watched. If it’s okay for them to break a rule, it’ll be okay for everyone else.
I’m 33 years old; I haven’t outgrown the problems of puberty, I’m already facing the problems of old age. I completely skipped healthy adulthood.
Thinking the present is the past. Whenever George is dating someone, you just know it’ll never work out. At some point earlier in his life, he had a routine that may have worked and he continues to repeat it.
When leaders sustain this blindspot, they have stopped developing. With time and some success, it is not uncommon for a leader’s growth to be stunted. But what worked in the past will not necessarily work in the future. Be receptive to new ideas and keep searching for better ways to get things done.
Yeah, I’m a great quitter. It’s one of the few things I do well. I come from a long line of quitters. My father was a quitter, my grandfather was a quitter… I was raised to give up.
Your blindspots are not a permanent condition. You have the power to clean off your glasses and make the changes necessary to be a more effective leader. Just yell, “Serenity now!” and get going.