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Through the Leadership Looking Glass

Or what lens are you seeing through?

Launching my 2022 campaign to help 10,000 managers and business owners become better bosses, I’ve already gotten some great responses. Over 1,400 have already acknowledged the need to improve and their pledge to do so. For more on my campaign, read below.

Yet the most common question so far is “where do I start?” To answer that, I turn to an old friend the Johari Window.

The Johari Window is that view that compares the known versus the unknown, the seen versus the unseen. It adds the dimension of you versus others. Here’s the diagram.

In this model, a leader can position themselves to evaluate exactly where they might stand.

Doing the Analysis

Looking at this diagram, ask yourself these questions.

What do I do well? These should be things not limited to what you think you do well (the Facade box), but things others acknowledge (the Arena box). Good bosses leverage the strengths and abilities they already possess while they work on the gaps they need to fill.

Do I have things in my “Unknown” box that should be worked on? An example here is the “Imposter Syndrome”. Many managers feel their situation is fake. They are so uncomfortable in the role, they are barely faking it to make it. Folks with this going on are afraid to open up about the uncertainty for fear of losing the job.

What are my blind spots? They’re called blind spots for a reason. You can’t see them by yourself. Who has ever seen the center of their own back? Not without a mirror. It takes an extra effort, device, or instrument to reveal the blind spots we have. Getting proper feedback from 360 reviews, special accountability partners, close confidants, or a coach is required to properly see a blind spot.

What are Blind Spots?

In her book, Fearless Leadership, Loretta Malandro, PhD., identified 10 behavioral blind spots that can derail leaders.

These 10 blind spots are:

  • Going it alone
  • Being insensitive to how your behavior impacts others
  • Having an “I know” attitude
  • Avoiding the difficult conversations
  • Blaming others or circumstances
  • Treating commitments casually
  • Conspiring against others
  • Withholding emotional commitment
  • Not taking a stand
  • Tolerating “good enough”

We each have these blind spots, with some being larger for us than others. Just like in a car, knowing your blind spots is important as you can make some extra effort to ensure that you see what you are doing. And just like in cars, if you don’t know your blind spots, you can get into big trouble.

The first step in avoiding these blind spots is to understand them and what they look like. It is easy to identify these in people we work with, but it is difficult to identify them ourselves (thus they are called blind spots). Here are some behaviors that describe each blind spot:

Going it alone: when you do things without asking others for their input. Examples of this behavior include:

  • not asking for help
  • not accepting help
  • not talking about the stress you are under
  • not including others in decisions
  • feeling like you need to get things done on your own

Going it alone is especially problematic for start-up entrepreneurs. When you begin a business, you think you know your idea the best. You’re not ready to let go and let others help build the dream. First-time business owners also may suffer from getting too deep into this syndrome. You’re just not ready or willing to open up to others.

Being insensitive to how your behavior impacts others: when you allow yourself to say or do most anything without sensitivity to the consequences or impact on others.

  • not noticing how body language impacts others
  • choosing words that can be mean or misunderstood provoking a negative response
  • not realizing how you’re devaluing others input or ideas

You rationalize these behaviors by thinking that people hurt by your words will “get over it.”

Having an “I know attitude“: when you think that you are always right and those who disagree with you are wrong.

  • not listening to others
  • always coming up with reasons others ideas won’t work
  • devaluing others ideas
  • arguing with anyone who disagrees with you
  • refusing to explore other options
  • making assumptions about others’ intent or their ideas

Avoiding difficult conversations: you avoid conflict and stressful situations – so you avoid those conversations where that happens.

  • not raising concerns or issues about other’s behavior
  • avoiding talking about negative information (bad sales, company layoffs, etc.)
  • softening tough messages and not talking about real concerns.

You only like to talk about surface issues.

Blaming others or circumstances: avoiding the need to take accountability or try to negate by shifting blame.

  • always having a reason
  • excuse or explanation for why something went wrong
  • “yeah, but…”
  • complaining about how it could have gone “if only”
  • leaving a project when you see it is not going to succeed.

I like to think of these as convenient excuses.

Treating commitments casually: when you make casual commitments that you don’t keep.

  • showing up late for meetings
  • not getting projects done on time
  • never making hard commitments in the first place
  • always having an escape hatch
  • using the “I’ll try” instead of “I will”

A leader’s ability to influence others is dependent on being able to make and keep commitments, regardless of how big or how small.

Conspiring against others: you engage in rumor mills and gossip or talk negatively behind people’s backs.

  • talking one-on-one with others about how you think a project won’t succeed
  • not talking in open project meetings
  • discrediting others ideas or accomplishments
  • displaying negative non-verbal cues such as rolling eyes or engaging in conspiracy theories

Withholding emotional commitments: you can agree intellectually, but withhold putting your heart and soul into a project.

  • just complying with a decision meeting the bare minimum requirements
  • resisting change, withholding support, going through the motions

Leadership requires genuine commitment. People around you can sense the false pretense of making the motion but not being committed.

Not taking a stand: sometimes when you know you should do something but you don’t because of how it could impact you.

not speaking up in a meeting when you disagree with the majority
failing to speak up when senior executives are around
getting people to work around a problem instead of addressing it head-on

Tolerating “good enough”: when you settle for getting things done just ok, but don’t push you or your teams for excellence.

  • not holding others accountable for their work
  • accepting incremental improvements
  • not willing to explore radical options
  • staying inside one’s comfort zone
  • not looking at what the future will require

The Process


Understanding the concept of having blind spots is the first step. Identifying our own blind spot is the harder part. To really get to the bottom of your own blind spot, you have to ask a few trusted confidants to work closely with you. They can better point out where they see your blind spots.

This is a hard exercise but one that is very beneficial. A review process called a 360 is also a useful tool. Many larger companies are using 360s on a regular basis as part of their leadership development programs.

None of us like to hear about our faults. Others don’t like to point them out. If you are open to growing and learning, then by identifying your own weaknesses, you can start the process of improvement and become a better leader and even a better person.

Making a commitment to exploring blond spots is your first step toward becoming a better boss.

Join me for the 2022 Challenge to Be a Better Boss. Take the Pledge. Jump in the LinkedIn Group.

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