Mastering Self-Awareness: Navigating Leadership Blind Spots

Devin C. Hughes
5 min readJul 31, 2023

Brian is wickedly brilliant. Aced his MBA program. He was tagged “high potential” the second he joined the corporate workforce. Promoted faster than others. Given teams to lead. Promoted again. And again.

Until he wasn’t.

When I have a call with Alexandra, Brian’s VP of Human Resources, I hear all about how Brian has pissed people off. The list is long. The details aren’t pretty.

Brian needs to get out of his own way, Alexandra says to me with a sigh.

I have always loved this saying.

When I have Brian on the phone, I appreciate Alexandra’s choice of language even more. I find Brian to be bright and quick, and charming. I instantly understand that Brian doesn’t mean to piss people off. There is no malice. He simply doesn’t know any better.

I find myself thinking of all how you and I will get in OUR own way. Brian’s behavior brings to mind the phrase “blind spot.” The stuff about us that is frequently visible to others but not to ourselves

A blind spot, so goes the APA (American Psychological Association) definition, is a lack of insight or awareness — often persistent — about a specific area of one’s behavior or personality, typically because recognizing one’s true feelings and motives would be painful. In classical psychoanalysis, it is regarded as a defense against the recognition of repressed impulses or memories that would threaten the patient’s ego.

We create blind spots to protect ourselves from who we really are. In the act of this self-protection, we inflict more personal pain on ourselves and the people we engage with. Ouch.

In his classic leadership book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” Marshall Goldsmith describes 20 archetypal behaviors of leaders who have moved up the ranks into roles of increasing authority. 20 behaviors that don’t serve them now. They likely didn’t work too well in their past, either. Personal blind spots.

Here is my list of the seven major blind spots that I witnessed in my work as an Executive Coach, informed by 20 years of doing this work. Whether or not we work in corporate life, all of us are susceptible to these blind spots.

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Devin C. Hughes

Keynote Speaker | Mindfulness Maven | Happiness Muse | Author | Diversity & Inclusion Advocate | www.devinchughes.com