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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Oct 4, 2017

Leadership Blind Spots


Do leaders have to be perfect? It sounds ridiculous to expect that, because none of us are perfect. However, leaders often act like they are perfect. They assume the mantle of position power and shoot out orders and commands to those below them in the hierarchy. They derive the direction forward, make the tough calls and determine how things are to be done. There are always a number of alternative ways of doing things, but the leader says, “my way is correct, so get behind it”. Leaders start small with this idea and over the course of their career they keep adding more and more certainty to what they say is important, correct, valuable and needed to produce the best return on investment.


With an army of sycophants in the workforce, the leader can begin to believe their own press. There is also the generational imperative of “this is correct because this was my experience”, even when the world has well and truly moved on beyond that experience. If you came back from World War Two as an officer, you saw a certain type of leadership being employed and the chances are that was why there were so many “command and control” leaders in the 1950s and 1960s. The Woodstock generation questioned what had been accepted logic and wanted a different boss-employee relationship, where those below had more input into the direction of the company. Technology breakthroughs made hard skill warriors the gurus of leadership. Steve Jobs abusing and belittling his engineers was accepted, because he was so smart.


Technology has however democratized the workplace. The boss is no longer the only one with access to key information. Being smart and abusive isn’t acceptable anymore. The boss-employee relationship has changed. It is going to keep changing too, especially here in Japan where there are 1.5 jobs for every person working.


Recruiting and retaining people becomes a key boss skill. The degree of engagement of the team makes a big difference in maintaining existing customer loyalty and the needed brand building to attract new customers. Social media will kill any organisation providing sub-standard service, because the damage travels far, wide and fast. The role of the boss has changed, but have the bosses kept up?


Recent Dale Carnegie research on leaders found four blind spots, which were hindering leaders from fully engaging their teams. None of these were hard skill deficiencies. All four focused on people skills.


  1. Leaders must give their employees sincere praise and appreciation

We just aren’t doing it enough. With the stripping out of layers in organisations, leaders are doing much bigger jobs with fewer team members. Time is short and coaching has been replaced by barking out commands. Work must get done fast because there is so much more coming behind it. We are all hurtling along at a rapid clip. The boss can forget that the team are people, emotional beings, not revenue producing machines. Interestingly, 76% of the research respondents said they would work harder if they received praise and appreciation from their boss. Take a reality check on yourself. How often to do you recognise your people and give them sincere praise?


  1. Leaders do well to admit when they are wrong

The scramble up the greasy pole requires enormous self-belief and image building. Mistakes hinder rapid career climbs and have to be avoided. Often this is done by shifting the blame down to underlings. The credit for work well done, of course, flows up to the genius boss who hogs all the limelight. The team are not stupid. They see the selfishness and respond by being only partially engaged in their work. In 81% of the cases, the research found that bosses who can admit they made mistakes are more inspirational to their team members.


  1. Effective leaders truly listen, respect and value their employees’ opinions

Who knows the most? Often the boss assumes that is them, because they have been anointed “boss”. They have more experience, better insights and a greater awareness of where the big picture is taking the firm. So why listen to subordinate’s mediocre and half baked ideas? Engaging people means helping them feel they are being listened to by their boss. Sadly, 51% of the survey respondents said their boss doesn’t really listen to them. Ask yourself, am I really focusing 100% of my attention on what my team are telling me or am I mentally multi-tasking and thinking about other things at the same time?


  1. Employees want leaders they can trust to be honest with themselves and others

There are two elements to this – external and internal reliability.

External reliability is the boss does what the boss says they will do. They “walk the talk”. In the survey, 70% said their boss couldn’t be depended upon to be honest and trustworthy when dealing with others. That is a pretty shocking result. The internal reliability focused on being consistent with your own core beliefs. Again, 70% said their boss fails in this regard – another shocker!


Obviously, bosses are not employing their full self-awareness about how they are being perceived. You can argue people have it wrong, but perception is reality. We need to pay more attention to each of these leadership blind spots if we want to engage our team members. Only engaged team members can deliver the highest levels of service to clients and that must be our aim. To achieve that, we have to take a cold hard look at ourselves and lift our game.


Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at


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About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.


A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, "THE Sales Japan series", THE Presentations Japan Series", he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.


Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.