Monthly Archives: November 2015

What me? Blind spots?

blind spot“As a leader, first, work on yourself- increase your self-awareness. There shouldn’t be any other urgent agenda than this. Get enlightened! Know very well who you are including your strengths, weaknesses, and blindspots!”  – Assegid Habtewold

Do you know what your leadership blindspots are? We all have them. They are unseen weaknesses that unless managed, can negatively impact those we lead and can derail our best efforts. The trick about blindspots is that we are literally blind to them.

Robert Bruce Shaw in his book, Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter, describes the 20 most common blindspots he’s seen while working as an executive coach to hundreds of professionals. He’s found that unseen weaknesses arise in four areas: self, team, company and markets. Here’s what he has to say about common blindspots about self:

  • Overestimating your strategic capability – This blindspot can occur when leaders get promoted into higher levels of an organization where the focus is more strategic and less operational or transactional
  • Valuing being right over being effective  – This blindspot happens when a leader thinks she already knows the answer and is unwilling to listen to others
  • Failing to balance the what with the how – This blindspot is all about the end justifying the means; focusing on results to the detriment of your integrity, other people, or the process
  • Not seeing your impact on others – This blindspot occurs when you assume that all of your followers have the same goals, values, and communication style as you and fail to adapt your style others you lead
  • Believing the rules don’t apply to you – This blindspot occurs when a leader develops a sense of entitlement along with their power and authority
  • Thinking the present is the past – This blindspot is about not recognizing that new skills may be needed to succeed into the future–that what got you here may not get you to where you want to go next

What personal blindspots might you be vulnerable to? If you’re not sure, I’d encourage you to meet with a colleague to discuss these common blindspots. And if you’re really courageous, ask your colleague about any potential blindspots they see in you.

Anita Rios

The view from the balcony

overcome-fear-of-heightsThe changes that are required for our organizations to succeed and thrive will disturb our comfortable view of work. Successful leaders must not only manage that feeling of disequilibrium, but make it productive. Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linksy label this Adaptive Leadership.

Adaptive leaders tackle the real issues we all face, while pushing people to look at the world differently. I just experienced a powerful example of adaptive leadership when Steven Rosenstone, the chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, challenged a group of leaders to “…ask ourselves hard questions: Can we really succeed doing things the way we are now, and what do I need to do differently?” That was a scary question but it made me, and all of us, closely examine what is important to us and to our students! And what are we willing to do about it? Will we step into the disequilibrium of real change and make a difference?

Heifetz highlights that leaders must be able to manage their own reactions and those of their team during these unsettled times. A metaphor that he uses is to “get off the swirl of the dance floor and get onto the balcony.” Intentionally stepping back from the chaos of a situation and observing it from a distance can help leaders see patterns, underlying issues, connections, and unexpected opportunities. The view from the balcony also allows leaders to recognize their own fears and beliefs about the situation and not allow them to cloud their interpretation of the events.

Adaptive leadership is all about connecting first with your own values, beliefs and fears and then connecting with the values, beliefs and fears of your people while asking them to take on the tough challenges we face in making a real difference. That is deeply personal work.

Todd Thorsgaard



Put on your own oxygen mask first…

This year we’ve been writing about critical challenges frequently faced by leaders in higher education. Topics have included balancing work and life demands, focusing on the common good, communicating through the day-to-day noise, encouraging high performance, and building effective teams. One thread that runs through all of these challenges is the need for self-awareness and organizational savvy on the part of the leader.

oxygen maskWhenever we ride on an airplane, we’re told to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others. That advice is useful for organizational challenges too. Leaders who are confident of their own goals, priorities, and action plans are better able to help others to cope with new challenges when they arise.

During November we’ll re-visit the topic of personal leadership. We’ll look at ways that knowing our own styles and preferences, exploring our blind spots, and engaging in strategic self-development can help us more effectively meet leadership challenges.

What personal leadership strategies have helped you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others?

Dee Anne Bonebright