Experience and Strengths : 2 Common Leadership Blind Spots

It may seem counter intuitive that there can be blind spots aligned with both success and the use of our strengths. Those blind spot traps can be seductive if you are unaware of their presence. I have experienced both. When I experience success because of the combination of my strengths I have a tendency to go quickly to the place of feeling confident in my abilities and to repeat that success without pausing to analyze a new situation.

The combination of my top strengths does not lend well to me slowing down and analyzing a situation in the moment. But, because I am aware of this tendency in myself I am mindful to slow down and debrief my success in addition to my failures with others. I have found debriefing a success or situation soon after it has occurred helps me expand my insight and increases my capacity for repeat success.

By being aware of the combination of my strengths I know that I have a tendency to take action without a complete plan. This is the shadow side, not helpful side, of some of my strengths. To be continuously reflecting on and learning the contributions of my strengths, the needs of my strengths and the triggers that have the potential of launching me into the shadow of exercising my strengths is beneficial and necessary for unlocking the full potential of my strengths.

It may not occur to us that something so great and easy can also have a dark side. Click To Tweet

leadership blind spots, awareness, experience, strengths, success analysis, shadow side, Sustainable Leadership, leadership coach, Diana Gabriel

A leader’s experiences – successful or otherwise – create powerful memories that influence future decisions. Unfortunately, experience also fosters leadership blind spots.

Success is a lousy teacher.
It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

– Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, The Road Ahead

Success boosts confidence. While it can feel especially good, it can lead to errors in thought.

We rarely examine or analyze what led to a successful outcome. We automatically assume we were right on the money. Our automatic mind consequently encodes the strategies and tactics we used or how others contributed to our success, along with the confidence we gained.

When we encounter a new situation, we instinctively draw on our memories of past success, without questioning whether prior strategies or circumstances fit the current situation.

I see how easily this happens with successful leaders that I coach. 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. Intuition takes over, shutting down the need for proper examination or analysis.

The experience blind spot can come into play when you move into a new role or change jobs. It also surfaces when you are entrenched in a job and neglect to pay attention to shifting priorities and environmental changes.


The Strengths Blind Spot

Strengths blind spots are an epidemic. You cannot avoid them, but you can mitigate them if you have a high degree of self-awareness, if you monitor your thoughts and if you make frequent course corrections.

Each strengths profile has strengths and blind spots. But when triggered to the extreme or inflamed by stressful situations, even our core strengths can generate behaviors that can become career-damaging weaknesses.

For example, if you are naturally optimistic with a strength of positivity, your thought is biased toward the positive. This is usually good if you are charged with inspiring others. But there are times when optimism backfires and leaves you blindsided by negative realities – something you miss until it is too late.

Similarly, an easygoing personality with a strength of harmony usually benefits from strong interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, they may also avoid necessary conflict. For every strength there is a tipping point where we are vulnerable to toxic behaviors using our strengths.

Strengths blind spots are often hard to discover or uncover because from our strength perspective it may not occur to us that something so great and easy can also have a dark side. We often fail to recognize the downside of what works so well for us or the strengths that fall in our blind spots. But with increased awareness, you can train yourself to detect emerging blind spots.


Ask yourself:

Am I aware of the shadow side of my strengths?

How will I know when my strengths blind me?

Who can be a sounding board or provide accurate feedback as I work toward increasing self-awareness?

Blind spots restrict our own perspectives and options. Soliciting diverse perspectives helps expand our awareness.


What are your blind spots beyond your strengths that could be potentially harmful if you are unaware of them? What can lead you to greater self-awareness? It is likely that working with a certified strengths coach will help you uncover your blind spots more affectingly. If I can help, contact me. Or, let’s connect on LinkedIn.


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