Self-awareness, the essence of great leadership

Self-awareness is a quality that is the essence of great leadership. It is the thing that sets average leaders apart from great ones. Being aware of one’s own strengths, weaknesses, personality and preferences has a positive impact on how leaders behave and interact with the people around them. The self-aware leader can consciously influence attitudes, situations and the overall climate within their environment.

Think about a leader you have had in the past who managed to keep you motivated, engaged and doing your best work. Now think about a time where you were under leadership that left you feeling unmotivated and dis-engaged from the work you were meant to be doing. Comparing both leaders, on scale of 1 – 10 try rating each them on the following characteristics;

  1. How much self-awareness did they have? How well did they understand their own strengths and weaknesses?
  2. How much social awareness did they have? How well were they able to read the environment in a team?
  3. How much self-management and adaptability did they have?
  4. Rate their social skills. How well were they able to develop, influence and lead others?

These four fundamental capabilities represent the foundation for measuring emotional intelligence – the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively.Exceptional leaders will rate well on all these characteristics. Leaders with higher levels of self-awareness have staff who feel more motivated and engaged. They have stronger relationships with their staff and they are respected and trusted.

Self-awareness is key for the workplace skills of the future

Advancements in technology has led to a rapidly changing work landscape whereby many jobs that existed 5-20 years ago simply don’t anymore, and the changes continue. The World Economic Forum recently published a report defining the top ten skills required for work now and into the future. The top ten workplace skills by 2020 will be:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgement and decision making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

Having a high level of self-awareness is the foundation for each one of these skills so it’s crucial for today’s, and tomorrow’s leaders, to embrace it whole heartedly. The great news is that self-awareness is a learned trait. There are tools and techniques leaders can use in order to maintain and develop their own self-awareness.

What defines a self-aware leader?

One of the main principles of self-awareness is a recognition of the fact that how we perceive the world, how we see it and make sense of our experiences is not the way it is. It’s simply our perception of reality. Self-aware individuals have a good grasp of this concept. They also embrace an open, growth mindset in their everyday actions with the aim of constantly reflecting and improving. Being self-aware means being able to oscillate between doing your job and reviewing and changing your actions to allow for constant and continuous self-growth. An average leader will focus simply on doingtheir job. A self-aware one, will do their job but will also take time to stop, assess, review and refine what they do by looking at their actions and the way they do things from a distance, with a good level of objectivity.

Furthermore, the self-aware leader is in tune with their team and their environment, can read people well and respond in a way that strengthens relationships. Self-aware leaders are focussed on building engagement, trust, rapport and ultimately performance amongst their team. They seek candid and formal feedback from their staff and actively work to improve the way things are done. Self-awareness requires you to be conscious of your capabilities and shortcomings. Without being in touch with yourself and your interactions with others, you can’t really develop a good rapport and build trust. Effectively being able to express your own vulnerability, can also fast-track your human connections. As humans we naturally want to help others who are vulnerable. If you can show others your human side and your ability to admit mistakes, they of course will be able to identify with you and be encouraged to express their own vulnerability to you, strengthening your relationships.

If you want to be an effective leader, adopt a growth mindset, focus on communicating well with your team, be fully prepared to take time out to seek feedback from others, reflect continuously and work to improve the way you do things. Take every opportunity to reassess your leadership and become more self-aware and implement strategies to grow and evolve.

If you would like to organise a tailored leadership workshop with me in 2019 get in touch today. I’d love to help!

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