Leadership Blind Spots

Published April 7, 2016

One of our favorite faculty alumni John Maxwell, is returning to the GLS for his fourth Summit in 2016! Recognized as one of the world’s top leadership thinkers, Maxwell was instrumental in encouraging Bill Hybels to found the GLS in 1995. The post below will give you a window into how he approaches the topic of leadership. 

 Do you have any blind spots?

…If you answered no, you now know where your blind spot is!

Okay, I think most of us would acknowledge that we do possess blind spots. We assume there must be some areas where we “don’t know what we don’t know.” And we suppose that our personal blind spots have an effect on our lives – quite possibly a negative effect.

But what happens when a leader has blind spots? It affects so many more people than the leader alone. It can have a far-reaching impact — on the leader, his or her followers, and the entire team, department or organization.

Here’s my definition of a blind spot: an area in someone’s life in which he continually fails to see himself or his situation realistically. This unawareness often causes great damage to the person and those around him.



Larry Stephens once said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Leaders are by nature strategic and action-oriented. They see a problem and move quickly to solve it. Unfortunately, this can result in a narrow focus – even tunnel vision. It’s important for leaders to take a step back in the face of a new problem, so that they search for and find the solution that best fits the situation, not just their own point of view.


Insecurity by its very nature causes leaders to think only of themselves. But the very essence of leadership is being about others!

This is a difficult blind spot to recognize in yourself, and even more difficult to overcome. But if you have any of the following symptoms, you might be an insecure leader. And you might need to get help from an objective mentor or counselor to overcome your insecurity. Symptoms of leadership insecurity include:

  • Difficulty giving credit to others
  • Hoarding information
  • Limiting followers’ exposure to other leaders
  • Feeling threatened by the growth of others
  • Micro-managing

Remember, you can’t lead people if you need people. Or if you need to control them.


I believe pride is a leader’s greatest enemy. John Ruskin said, “Pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” Like insecurity, pride makes the leader all about himself, rather than those he leads. It is the opposite of humility. A prideful leader tends to blame others, live in denial, and be closed-minded and rigid. This results in low morale among followers.

How do you overcome pride? I’ve found that the best antidote to pride is gratitude. When I recognize that I can’t take credit for many of my gifts and the blessings that have come my way, I can feel gratitude. This leads to humility and an ability to give credit and accept blame as needed.


In my book Beyond Talent, I point out that character protects talent. Many people with talent make it into the limelight, but the ones who have neglected to develop strong character rarely stay there long. Absence of strong character eventually topples talent. Why? Because people cannot climb beyond the limitations of their character.

To develop your character, you first need to recognize its lack in your life. Usually, all you need to do is compare what you say with what you do. Wherever they don’t match, that shows a lack of character. Align your values, thoughts, feelings and actions, and your character will be strengthened.

There are other blind spots that affect all of us, but these are four common ones that specifically do damage to a person’s leadership. Examine yourself to see if you might have one or more of them. You might want to ask family, friends, colleagues or followers for their input. (And if that strikes fear into your heart, you might want to look closely at yourself in the area of Insecurity.)

It’s worth it to do this self-examination, because by discovering and resolving any of these blind spots, a leader can improve his or her leadership. This will improve morale and increase productivity for the team as a whole. Blind spots can put a lid your leadership. Open your eyes, and your team will go to a new level.

This post originally appeared on johnmaxwell.com here.

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Register here to attend the GLS at a premier host site near you, for the best pricing register by May 24, 2016. Check out the Global Leadership Summit website to see other members of the faculty and for additional information.

About the Author
John Maxwell

John C. Maxwell

Leadership Expert, Best-Selling Author, Coach

John Maxwell Company

John C. Maxwell, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach and speaker, was identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association and the world’s most influential leadership expert by Inc. in 2014. His organizations—The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team and EQUIP—have trained over 6 million leaders in every nation. His latest book is Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters.

Years at GLS 1996, 1999, 2005, 2016, 2018

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