Why is Self-Awareness Important in Leadership?
Over 20 years ago, my eldest son was born, and I remember my Grandma saying to me “you can’t be a great mum, wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbour, boss etc; if you’re not a great you.”
This was her way of telling me to look after myself, but it was done in a way that provoked lots of reflection about me as Andrea, not me as a mum, or me as a wife etc.
I share this story with lots of clients and over the years have changed the quote to
“You can’t be a great leader, if you’re not a great you.”
When I start working with senior leaders, they feel overwhelmed by the never-ending challenges, pressures and complexities of working in organisations. As a busy leader it’s easy to get caught up in going through the motions, and not focusing on yourself and your leadership practice.
That’s why it’s so important to have a good understanding of what you stand for, what motivates you, what energises you, and what you do well.
Failing to focus on yourself and your leadership practice only results in a busy approach of doing what comes next, rather than what needs to be done.
This is self-awareness.
It’s having a good understanding of who you are, and focusing your awareness on yourself, including your emotions, your behaviours, and the impact you have on yourself and others around you.
A good place to start is reflecting on the key areas of focus in your work / life and considering the amount you feel fulfilled in those areas. If you’re wanting to start this process now, download this complimentary activity.
So why is self-awareness so important in leadership?
1. Self-aware leaders are more emotionally intelligent
Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer first used the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in 1990. However, it was Daniel Goleman who later brought it to the forefront of leadership theory.
In his book: Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Goleman details self-awareness as one of the four core components of emotional intelligence. He describes self-awareness as the ability to identify and monitor our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment.
So being a self-aware leader, means you’re going to be aware of how you feel, and more importantly how your emotions and actions will impact on the people around you.
2. Self-aware leaders are more successful
In a study completed by Green Peak and the Cornell School of Industrial and Labour Relations, self-awareness was the strongest predictor of overall success. One possible reason cited in the study was that self-aware executive leaders often hire employees with strengths in the leader’s weakest areas.
They also suggested that leaders who are self-aware are more comfortable with the idea that someone on their team may have even better ideas than themselves.
Having the self-awareness to know your own weaknesses means that you’re able to benefit from capitalising on the strengths of others. It also potentially helps your teams stay engaged.
When people feel that their ideas are listened to and their strengths are well-utilised they are more likely to feel motivated in their role.
Ways to become more self-aware
Self-awareness is an ongoing process, rather than a one-off skill that you can learn. A self-aware leader continually takes stock of their emotions, thoughts, motivators, strengths, and weaknesses.
Take time to reflect
Spend at least a few minutes each day taking stock of what happened during the day. How did each different event make you feel? How did you react to others? What was driving that reaction? How did others react to you? What do you think was driving their reaction?
Understanding the answers to these questions can help you become more self-aware.
If you’re looking for a deeper reflection, a good place to start is reflecting on the key areas of focus in your work / life and considering the amount you feel fulfilled in those areas. If you’re wanting to start this process now, download this complimentary activity.
Pay attention to your self-talk
Take note of the words that you use in your own mind. Do you think more positively, or negatively about yourself? Are the words you use about yourself really fair? Do they accurately reflect who you are? Are the words you use the truth?
Seek out feedback
Ask people to tell you what they think are your strengths and weakness, and how they perceive you generally. Their answers may surprise you. It’s common that others see in us what we don’t see in ourselves. Gathering feedback can help you address any blind spots you may have.
Feedback is also very useful for checking our self-talk against what others think of us.
Executive Coaching can help raise your self-awareness
If you want to be an effective leader, the key could be as simple as getting to know yourself. Remember, you can’t be a great leader, if you’re not a great you!
Make reflection a daily practice, and gain feedback on your leadership style. Putting in the effort to become self-aware can help you become a great leader.
I’ve been working with senior leaders for nearly 20 years to develop all aspects of their leadership practice. In that time I’ve worked with dozens of senior leaders on improving their self-awareness. If you’re ready to take the next step towards becoming a more self-aware leader, why not book a chat with me?