Some Leaders Cannot Admit Their Blind Spots

“If you were blind, you would have no [error]; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your [error] remains.”  John 9:41, New American Standard

 When do leaders cause the most damage to their organizations and to those who trust them?

When these leaders ignore the feedback of others and try to go it alone; when they do not listen to understand the concerns of their colleagues and followers. For example, even after a criminal conviction by juries of their peers, some leaders do not get it. They go it alone, blinded by a dust storm of their own making.

One leader in particular is in the news. He continues to blame others for his errors. He is on record blaming his “employees,” his boss, and the “feds” instead of accepting responsibility for his choices. He remains in his own blinding dust storm, still unrepentant after being convicted in federal court of 19 counts of insider trading. Recently released on probation, he served only a few years in prison. Meanwhile, many employees and shareholders who lost large portions of their retirement investments due to this CEO’s blow-back are left to suffer for as many as 20+ years.

Does Presence In A Top Position Create Leader Blind Spots?

It is difficult to capture in a few words what creates and maintains top leaders’ blind spots. One overview comes from the research of the Hay group. They report evidence to suggest leaders’ blind spots grow as they move into the top positions in their organizations. Given the increased isolation and “rarified” atmospheres many executives face at the top levels, it becomes more difficult for top leaders to accept and understand data and facts that are in conflict with their own levels of self-awareness.

How Can Top Leaders Compensate for Their Blind spots?

Top leaders are setting themselves up for failure when they try to go it alone. They can compensate for their lack of vision by designing and working within an up-to-date and well-tailored structure of leadership.

Structure of leadership—those arrangements senior managers put in place to organize themselves, establish productive working relationships with other leaders, and set up the decision-making processes that will assure the reliable delivery of their organizations’ critical outcomes.

From the Preface of Leaders First: Six Bold Steps to Sustain Breakthroughs in Construction, at

Assumption: An effective structure of leadership creates the relationships, collaboration, and the knowledge-sharing top leaders need to work together.

In a well-designed leadership structure top leaders are better able to stay in touch with the…

  • Realities of their markets.
  • Needs of their followers.
  • Desires of their customers.

#Leaders discover their blind spots by seeing through the eyes of their colleagues.

No single leader is as perceptive as a seasoned group of capable leaders, organized to complement one another’s delivery of those survival outcomes for which they are individually accountable. Even while carrying personal accountability, these leaders are working together. While working together, they expand each other’s self-awareness to help manage their blind spots.

Questions for reflection:

How up-to-date is your leadership structure? Does it draw leaders together or drive them apart?

What steps have you taken to organize your own supportive group of leaders who can give you reality checks on your decisions and actions?  

As a leader, are you open to feedback from others about your decisions and actions? How would your colleagues answer this question? How close is their answer to your own perception?


About Gene Morton

OD Consultant and Author of the two-time award winning book, Leaders First: Six Bold Steps to Sustain Breakthroughs in Construction. See excerpts at Leader development and team development through coaching, consulting, and presenting on topics related to the structure of leadership in groups and organizations. Through his years of experience implementing mergers, reorganization, culture change, and organization transformation, Gene learned how an effective structure of leadership compensates for, and balances, leader blind spots, improving performance overall, and making innovation and change possible. He enjoys working in the construction industry, heath care, governmental, as well as the non-profit world.
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