All leaders have them—quirks, foibles, biases, and weaknesses that they simply don’t see in themselves. These blind spots can sabotage even the most promising leaders if left unchecked. But how do you learn to recognize your blind spots—and correct them?
Author, professor, and leadership expert Rick Chromey, D.Min., offers his insights on how you can learn to discern your blind spots—before they cripple your ability to lead.
Discover Your Blind Spots Before They Sabotage Your Ministry
Q: What damage can blind spots (areas of poor judgment, weakness, or bias we ignore or don’t recognize) do to leaders in ministry over the long term?
A: Failure to recognize and rectify blind spots does more than just damage reputation and opportunity, it also impacts your immediate family (who live in the wake of your choices).
Q: What are the typical blind spots in leaders?
A: You’ve already mentioned a few good ones, such as poor judgment and bias. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be what are they, but why are they? Blind spots rise for a reason.
Here’s an example: I’ve found most of my blind spots were framed within two great fears: rejection and failure. We all want to succeed and be accepted. Consequently we develop coping strategies to mask the fear. For years I dealt with rejection by simply rejecting first. When I felt the heat or the chill, I’d bail. My fear was rooted in the fact I was abandoned by my mother, and so to prevent any future “abandonment” I responded by finding the door first. Naturally, this left a trail of brokenness in my early years of ministry and many personal regrets, poor choices, and hidden sins.
The fear of failure also drove my success for many years. I wanted to be the best at whatever I did. Unfortunately this ideal created a prison for my mind. Yes, people saw my success, but inside every accomplishment (because it wasn’t perfect) was a failure to me. It made me a workaholic, a perfectionist, and a card-carrying member of the Messiah Complex Club.
Q: How can leaders self-assess to determine where they have blind spots?
A: It’s probably different for everyone, but my self-assessment begins by surrounding myself with friends and family who’ll tell it like it is. Like David, we need a Nathan. We need a prophetic voice in our lives to reveal what we conceal. I have several mentors, some who’ve walked with me for years.
I’m also a proponent of quick critiques that provide substantial feedback. As a leader, I like to have “reality checks” with my staff—quick moments of self-reflection that invite their input. Depending on the staff member and our level of trust, these checks have varying degrees of depth. Just be careful. Some people are well-intentioned dragons that use your weakness against you to their own gain. Nevertheless, I believe trust is elemental to helpful self-assessment, and inherent to developing trust is the willingness to risk.
Q: What would you say to a leader who says he or she doesn’t have blind spots?
A: We all have blind spots. We all have weaknesses. Wise leaders work from their strengths but embrace their weakness with God’s grace. The greatest blind spot of all is the denial of blind spots. When I interview staff, I want to know their strengths and weaknesses because strengths are what energize the team while weaknesses will be the drain (and the pain). Too many people are hired (or recruited) without serious investigation of their weaknesses.
Q: How would you coach a leader to go about finding and correcting a blind spot?
A: It’s crucial to surround yourself with prophetic voices who see you (and love you) as you are. Every leader should have one professional confidant and mentor that allows complete transparency and freedom to express pain and problems.
I also encourage any number of self-assessment tests for personality and temperament. One of my favorites is the Keirsey-Bates Temperament Sorter
In the end, the real key is humility. Leaders are easily deluded by the power they experience and execute. Self-assessment creates authenticity. Authenticity invites transparency. Transparency embraces weakness. Weakness frames humility.
Q: How can leaders resist the urge to fall back into blind-spot habits?
A: We all walk with a limp. A blind spot is like any other habit in that it only possesses you when you supply it power. That’s why pride is probably the greatest of all sins. Pride blinds.
Again, this is where relationship and community are so important to a leader. Leaders aren’t islands. We’re part of a body. Whenever there’s disconnection, disengagement, and disenfranchisement, the blind spots appear. Conflict and crisis create division. The temptation in either situation is to retreat, resist, or run.
Blind spots often create self-delusion. We entertain them because they satisfy and solve our immediate problems. However, when I face my habits resurfacing, I seek my mentors. I share my fears and failures. I get the reality check.
I’ve also learned to forgive. Many of my blind spots are checked by granting forgiveness and being forgiven. Max Lucado once suggested to never allow anyone to “define your mood, method, or mission.” It’s true. Not everyone will like you or accept you or support you. But if you’re called to this work and it’s Divine Appointment then simply utter one of Jesus’ final words: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Then walk on, carry on, and press on.
I don’t think you ever totally free yourself from blind spots. They are a part of our human nature, good or bad. The temptation to expunge or to exploit them is a mistaken goal. Blind spots are like bad breath. They’re consequential and circumstantial. Therefore, it’s delusional to live like they aren’t there and destructive to operate like you can’t beat them. You can overcome blind spots, but you’ll never make them obsolete. You wouldn’t want to. Blind spots keep you honest, real and, ultimately, human.
Rick Chromey is the author of Energizing Children’s Ministry in the Smaller Church (Standard), Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches (Group), and Sermons Reimagined (Group).