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Leadership perils that could tarnish reputation, relationships and successes

2020 was the year we were presented with radical challenges caused by a sudden pandemic, political and social unrest and a seemingly fragile economy. These challenges have creeped its way into 2021, and we know for a fact that these impediments are definitely not going to miraculously vanish into thin air soon. In these unprecedented times, business leaders in various organizations, be it private or public sectors have the moral obligation to actively cultivate self-awareness and be more sensitive when tending to their subordinates or peers needs and requirements at the workplace or in a virtual setting due to the pandemic, there has been a massive shift in the employees, physically and psychologically – from being mobile in the office with a conducive environment to a cramped up space working from home.

The lack of awareness in a leader’s behaviour can cause a negative impact such as disintegration in the workplace

Based on the book Leadership Blindspots by Robert Bruce Shaw, blindspots in a leader are threats that are dangerously unrecognized in the workplace, this could tarnish workplace reputation,  relationships and can hinder a leader’s success and further derail them from achieving their objectives and goals in the long run. The lack of awareness in a leader’s behaviour can cause a negative impact such as disintegration in the workplace and most of the time it is subconsciously unintentional.

Based on a Boston Consulting Group survey, 65 executives named the foremost hindrances to adopting agile behaviors, their utmost fears were to “leave their comfort zones”, “leadership team dynamics” and “a lack of self-awareness”. During times of a pandemic, disruption and fast-paced changes, employees will generally look for directions from leaders regarding situations or questions they are unclear of. Only a leader who shreds off tunnel-visioning has the ability to provide clear directions that an organization requires while allowing autonomy to ensure actions are executed at the frontlines.

Agile methodologies in leadership prevent organizations from slipping back into bureaucracy that would impede a post pandemic rebound

With this pandemic, employees are forced to accustom themselves to remote working, a strong alignment from top-tiered management to the frontlines is more vital than ever before. Agile leaders need to foster autonomy amongst employees, to build a culture of trust and effective communication within the organization, as the concern over the virus has greatly impacted employees mentally and physically, leaving them hanging on a broken thread. Hence, it is crucial that leaders need to prioritize agile methodologies in leadership to ensure seamless management of human and business matters at this point in time but to also prevent organizations from slipping back into bureaucracy, top-down communication, command and control modes that would impede a post pandemic rebound.

Some great insights on Achilles’ Heel of Leadership shared by Kirk Hanson, former fellow and Executive Director of Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and President of Electric Impulse Communication Leslie G. Ungar, both have stated some notably common blindspots in leaders that are essentially run by pride, for instance, leaders who:

  • Do not know that they’re trapped in a worldview of their own bubble
  • Do not see themselves doing things that are unjust
  • Demonstrate inconsistent leadership
  • Stop innovating and envisioning a better future
  • Believe all workplace successes are due to their sole contribution
  • Believe that rules do not apply to them
  • Believe they will never fall and fail
  • Avoid tough questions i.e conflict avoidance
  • Avoid accountability i.e playing the victim
  • Repress emotional commitment i.e emotional blackmail

Here’s a great example of a leader’s blindspot, looking into the past case in the early years (1997-2001) of Larry Page, the ungovernable and opinionated co-founder of Google, employees at Google were opting for new directions and strategies for the company, even the basic mechanisms of leadership and they had fought and lost countless of battles with Page. For years, Google was at the brink of losing fundamental authority until Eric Schmidt stepped in to provide “leadership control”. Business Insider covered a sensational story and noted Page finally had the realization of accepting different perspectives, accepting feedback and learning from others regardless of hierarchy thus correcting its course. This is a monumental change as it shifts and re-shaped Page’s perception on traditional and basic management systems. This allowed Page to reign as CEO for a second stint in Google from (2011-2015) before he moved on to Alphabet Inc, a company he “created to deliver major advancements” as Google’s parent’s company.

However, we live in a pessimistic world where the majority of corporate leaders fail to recognize their blindspots as they lack a systematic way to think on possible recourse in increasing their level of self awareness. Here are some effective baselines to follow on improving your level of self awareness and avoiding having tunnel vision by embracing a reversed version of Hanson’s scrutiny:

  • Admit that we do not know everything that is presented to us
  • Walk the talk as actions speak louder than words
  • Give credit and recognize people who did well
  • View ourselves as a small puzzle being fit into bigger puzzles
  • Surround yourself with people who are diverse in thinking
  • Hire a skilled facilitator/coach in your team
  • Solicit feedback in the correct manner i.e 360 degree feedback
  • Reflect and reexamine your past to identify patterns
  • Develop an open culture
  • Communicate effectively and transparently with your employees

There is no one size fits all solution to every leadership equation, the answer is multi layered and it involves these qualities – validation, recognition, empathy, sympathy and consistent actions from the leaders. These aspects provide a much clearer perspective on leadership humility that one should possess. When problem solving eventually becomes a seamless process that enables employees and the organization to flourish and grow, you know that you have successfully cultivated great leadership. There is this saying “failure serves as the greatest lesson” albeit in a person’s life or in business, every experience teaches us new lessons and the unseen pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that it represents. So all in all, the question goes back to the leader: Would you be open to all of the above suggestions to overcome your areas of vulnerability?

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Read more leadership articles:  Essential Traits of a CEO