Manage Your Own Blind Spots As A Leader By Having A ‘Fool’ In Your Life

Manage Your Own Blind Spots As A Leader By Having A ‘Fool’ In Your Life

Written by: Paul Glover, Forbes Councils Member

The No B.S. Workplace Performance Coach and trusted advisor helping individuals and organizations reach higher levels of work performance.


In the Middle Ages, kings ruled by divine right and were supposed to be infallible rulers. Anyone who questioned the king’s decisions committed the crime of heresy, punishable by death. But, while everyone accepted God didn’t make mistakes, everyone knew human beings, including kings, did.

The conundrum was how to tell a king he was making a mistake and not get killed. The solution was the creation of the Fool.

We imagine the Fool to be a clown who entertained the king, making him laugh by doing somersaults and singing nonsensical songs. But the Fool was really a trusted advisor to the king, who, because he understood the king’s personality, could see his blind spots, knew what triggered his negative behavior and would question him when he saw the king was about to make a bad decision. Because the Fool was seen as a crazy person, he had the psychological safety necessary to tell the king the truth and not have his head cut off.

Today, like medieval kings, every leader needs Fools. Modern-day Fools are people the leader trusts — coaches, mentors, advisors — who care enough to tell the leader the truth when, because of their blind spots, the leader is triggered to make negative decisions that could harm themselves, their team and their organization. 

The value of having Fools in a leader’s life cannot be over-emphasized because, like kings, today’s leaders are often seen as above reproach and unapproachable. This results in leaders not being able to break their own pattern of destructive decision-making because no one has the psychological safety to risk pointing it out.

A leader’s negative blind spots are created by their own personality traits, beliefs and experiences. They are unrecognized limitations on the way a leader behaves, causing them to not see themselves, and their actions, as others do.

Because of the impact a leader has on their team and organization, when a leader’s blind spot is triggered and they make a knee-jerk bad decision, the consequences of that decision undermine a leader’s success and the success of their team and organization. 

While there are numerous blind spots, the most common are:  

1. Ego. This is often represented by the following traits: is a know-it-all, can’t make a mistake; is close-minded, inflexible, overly optimistic; won’t consider any solution except their own; won’t accept responsibility for bad decisions; blames others for their mistakes; refuses to collaborate; doesn’t invite feedback.

2. Insecurity. You may see this manifest as: indecision; micromanagement; needing to act alone; afraid to ask for help; not sharing information; not giving credit to others; threatened by the growth of others; avoiding conflict; constantly seeking approval; not seeking the input of others.

3. Lack of emotional intelligence. A leader like this may treat others disrespectfully; lack empathy; lack awareness of their impact on others; not provide the psychological safety necessary to receive feedback. (I’ve discussed this previously in my Forbes article “Overcome Three Myths About Psychological Safety To Combat The Great Resignation”).

Understanding their own, and other people’s, blind spots is essential if a leader is going to lead effectively. By having this knowledge, leaders can exert control over their actions, and the actions of others, by controlling emotional decision-making. Leaders will also be more aware when someone is attempting to intentionally trigger their blind spots for their own advantage. 

Because they are an integral part of a leader’s personality, their blind spots cannot be eliminated, but their negative impact can be mitigated. This control requires the leader to understand their blind spots and recognize the negative triggers that activate their blind spots.

Negative triggers are unique and personal to every leader. They consist of words, body language and actions taken or not taken that spark a spontaneous negative reaction from the leader. For more information on triggers, read Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts — Becoming the Person You Want to Be.

By identifying their triggers, leaders become conscious of the external stimuli that cause them to respond negatively. They then can “take a breath” and control their negative behavior so it does not undermine their leadership.

Because most leaders cannot see their blind spots and are not aware of their triggers, they need to find Fools who will tell them the truth about themselves so they can become better leaders. But since Fools do not magically appear, a leader needs to start the search process: 

• First, the leader must become self-aware. This allows the leader to realize, like the king, they need Fools to help them see their blind spots, understand their triggers and avoid destructive behavior. 

• The leader then needs to find their Fools. Fortunately, Fools surround leaders. But, like medieval Fools, they are disguised as coaches, mentors and trusted advisors.

• Once the leader finds their potential Fools, they have to ask them to become one of their Fools. This is a big ask, because, like the king, leaders don’t want to be told they are making a mistake.

• For Fools to say yes, the leader must promise them psychological safety — permission to tell the leader the truth without fear of negative backlash.

• Finally, when their Fools give them the gift of truth about their blind spots, the leader must express their gratitude for this gift and let their Fools know how fortunate they are to have them in their lives.

After 30 years of functioning as a Fool for those leaders in my coaching program, I can assure any leader that if they think they don’t need a Fool, they have the biggest blind spot of all. Lastly, every leader who has recognized the value of having a Fool in their life needs to become a Fool for someone they care about. Because every leader needs a Fool.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

via Forbes – Leadership “”

December 10, 2021 at 04:58AM

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Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman