What has happened to leaders today? The decisions leaders make today across all spectrums have been constantly called into question as of late. The decisions made by the president of General Motors are good examples. Her decisions from years ago are being questioned today because she decided to wait to do a recall on millions of the company’s cars with an ignition defect that causes the cars to suddenly stall.
Her decisions may have allowed many people to die because of the mechanical defects of cars that her company has manufactured. Why did she make the decisions she made?
A new book, Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter, by Robert Bruce Shaw may provide some insight into how a seemingly good decision at the time can end up being a killer decision in the end.
Shaw writes, “The fact that good judgment is built on bad judgment means that you learn primarily as a result of your experiences — particularly your mistakes.”
He goes on to write that mistakes occur everywhere within a company or organization including by those at the top level. Mistakes occur for a variety of reasons including incomplete information available at the time of the decision or the leader just in the end makes the wrong choice.
Shaw refers to unrecognized weaknesses or threats “that has the potential to undermine a leader’s success” as blindspots. He suggests that some leadership failures are the result of “black swan events” that are outside of the control of the leader while some failures are the result of “situational blindness.”
Shaw writes that it is a complex balancing act when dealing with two conflicting needs that leaders experience. The first need is “to act with confidence in their abilities and faith in their vision for their organizations.” The second is to be aware of their own limitations and “avoid the hazards that come with overconfidence and excessive optimism.”
The author integrates plenty of leadership case studies throughout the book including taking a look at the blindspots of Apple’s infamous leader, Steve Jobs. He offers ways for leaders to realize their blindspots, determine the degree of the blindspot and understand the tenacity of blindspots. He provides a list of the types of blindspots and a list of the 20 common blindspots.
There are several worksheets included to help leaders organize and categorize their blindspots. The book is organized into three sections, “Why Blindspots Matter,” “How to Surface and Overcome Blindspots” and “Additional Resources.”
The last section includes a self-assessment survey, feedback worksheet and a list of further readings for leaders. All in all, the book covers many aspects of why leaders, who got where they are because of making so many right decisions, can suddenly fail and start making the wrong decisions.
I highly recommend any type of leader read this book. It may help them stop and think a bit longer before jumping to decide on solutions that may not be the best in the end.
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