MINDSET: Leadership Blindspots


Blindspots especially affect people who are unaware that they are unaware.”

– Robert B. Shaw

Every leader has blindspots. Understanding yours is a valuable insight.

Blindspots can stem from overconfidence, inexperience, being overloaded with information, emotional thinking, cognitive dissonance, poor incentives, and “hierarchical distortions”.


They can either be good or bad. Figure out which ones to focus on and which to ignore. Leadership requires asking the most revealing questions in the most effective way.

To correct your blindspots, try to see things for yourself. Look for contrary data, be aware of information others don’t see, get outside advice and test your ideas.

Awareness of a blindspot doesn’t mean it disappears.

“Blindspots are worthy of attention because the costs of neglecting them can be so high. A single blindspot in a critical area can undercut even the most talented leader.”

Spotting Blindspots

  • Review your mistakes for recurring weaknesses – Ask yourself, “What are the most significant mistakes I have made?” “What were the causes of each mistake?” “Are there patterns or common elements across these mistakes?” “Do the patterns suggest recurring blindspots?” “What actions are needed to prevent these mistakes from occurring again in the future?”
  • Solicit feedback from those with insight about you – Ask colleagues to evaluate a potential lack of awareness with regards to your staff, your company or its markets.

Most Blindspots That Afflict Leaders Fall into One of Four Categories

  • SELF
    • In the realm of “your own beliefs and behaviors,” you fail to understand how you affect those around you.
  • TEAM
    • When you evaluate “the capabilities and motives of your team,” you do not accurately see members’ strengths and weaknesses.
    • Your opinion about “the capabilities and culture of your organization” is flawed.
    • Leaders afflicted with this blindspot cannot judge “the trends and competitive threats in [their] industry” reliably or conceive future changes.

Controlling Your Blindspots

Use these five techniques to increase your awareness of your blind spots:

  1. “See it for yourself” – Build your attention to your customers and markets.
  2. Seek out that which disconfirms what you believe – Play the devil’s advocate. Question your own decisions.
  3. Develop peripheral vision – Meet one-on-one with your team members.
  4. Build a network of trusted advisers – Gather people to counsel you on markets and strategy, new technology, political dynamics, and your impact on your organization and workforce.
  5. Promote productive team fights – To recruit the right team members, seek the smartest.

Seeing Internally and Externally

Our best leaders can serve two important roles: insiders who know how to make things happen, and outsiders who can see the bigger picture. They understand that blindspots can come back or be replaced, so they stay vigilant.

“Some people, even those with great insight, are occasionally blind to things in front of their noses.”

― William Scott