Beware Of The Enemy Within

Mohamad Cholid
GCG Coach

The mirror is a worthless invention. The only way to truly see yourself is in the reflection of someone else’s eyes.” Voltaire.


In the last twenty years of his life, Albert Einstein lived beautifully in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton University, United States. It was there that he drew his last breath in 1955. Throughout his research in developing the theory of relativity and teaching in Princeton, Einstein was known to always ask the same questions in his final exams. His students and colleagues took note of this habit.

One of his colleagues was so curious and decided to ask his reasons for giving the same questions in exams. Einstein simply replied, “Because the answers always change.”

To emphasize the context of our existence on Earth and achieve clarity about sangkan paraning dumadi (the origin and purpose of life), there will always be fundamental questions awaiting in every corner of our journey.

In organizational leadership, business, and nonprofit, there are several standard questions that still apply to this day since decades ago. However, these questions generate answers that are constantly changing, corresponding to the context of time and present challenges.

One of those questions is: What are our reasons and purposes of building and leading an organization? To this day, many executives and leaders are still unable to show a deep understanding beyond normative answers like providing employment and participating in the economic growth—which are of course valid answers anyway.

The question is part of Peter Drucker’s Five Most Important Questions, which have always been the reference of business organizations since decades ago.

The five questions are: 1. What is our mission? 2. Who is our customer? 3. What does the customer value? 4. What are our results? 5. What is our plan?

Each question should be responded with comprehensive answers, according to the condition of each organization and the challenges of their leaders. To some organizations, this quest for answer would need a multiple day workshop to find a common footing—clarity to find effective steps to realize goals and develop organization.

Getting ourselves used to asking fundamental questions periodically, either every quartile or semester, or at least once a year, could save us from the trap of biases. For example, the optimism bias (the tendency to be overly optimistic to reach great results), or the planning fallacy bias (tendency to exaggerate benefits while at the same time underestimating the costs and task completion times).

For executives and leaders, the habit of asking themselves these questions, related to their own strategical contexts in organizations and society, is a must. That is, if they want to stay relevant in today’s reality, mainly for the sake of being aware to the leadership blind spot, which is an area often missed by the conscience to see the self in a realistic way.

It would be helpful if we add three other fundamental questions:

  1. To be more effective, what are the activities that we should stop doing right now?
  2. What are the things that we can keep doing because they support progress?
  3. What are new things that we should start doing, to create more positive impacts to the stakeholders and to our lives?

Who, among us, is certain that they are free of blind spots?

For leadership behavior, one kind of blind spot can be described as this: You feel like you are great in a certain competency. However, your team, colleagues, and your manager give you low scores in that competency. This means that there exists a hidden area to develop in your leadership.

It could also be the opposite: You feel like you are average in a certain competency, but the stakeholders (peers, direct reports, your boss) think that you are highly competent. This means that you have a hidden strength, which could be optimized to help you become a more effective leader.

Asking the same questions to your stakeholders periodically to give you feedback and, most importantly, feedforward, is valuable. They give feedback and feedforward according to the context of your daily behavior and your goal, fitting with the challenges you have to overcome in the workplace and your daily life.

Please be reminded that leadership blind spots can have catastrophic consequences, and the more power a leader has within a company, the greater the consequences of her or his blind spot. Leadership blind spot is like the enemy within.

There are cases where executives feel uneasy about the stakeholders’ perceptions of their leadership behavior.

If trapped in this kind of uneasiness, remember the words of Voltaire, a French philosopher who is persistent in changing the way people think and behave, “The mirror is a worthless invention. The only way to truly see yourself is in the reflection of someone else’s eyes.”

This article originally appeared on  [link to original article click here]


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Mohamad Cholid

GCG Coach

Mohamad Cholid is Member of Global Coach Group & Head Coach at Next Stage Coaching.

  • Certified Global Leadership Coach
  • Certified Global Team Coach
  • Certified Global Leadership Assessment Coach
  • Alumnus The International Academy for Leadership, Germany

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