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Why Self-Awareness Is Such an Important Leadership Quality
If I told you that I could give you a potion that would grant you the power to fully and objectively understand yourself and others and to positively influence people, would you want a sip of it?
I hope that you would!
While I may not possess such a potion, I can give you something better: guidance to developing self-awareness and through it, your emotional intelligence.
Self-Awareness and Leadership Development
The psychological definition of self-awareness spells out that it is the ability to use introspection and reflection to gain a clear and objective understanding of oneself. Total objectivity may not be possible when reflecting upon the self. You can come close to it, however, if you develop your self-awareness to a high-enough degree.
From the perspective of leadership development, I would suggest we expand that definition. Growing to objectively know yourself is just the first step toward self-awareness. Improving yourself based on that knowledge could complete the self-awareness circle.
I have always considered self-awareness to be a foundational trait of good leaders. It is part of the wheel of leadership competencies upon which I have predicated several of my books.
Its importance as a leadership quality is immense.
- As I pointed out in Intelligent Leadership, self-awareness is the key component of emotional intelligence. It represents the foundation for moving past the “self” and applies the principles of self-awareness to others as a leadership quality. Thus, a self-aware leader can recognize the emotions and the behavior patterns of his/her reports. Having “hacked” into the backstage of human behavior that stems from the self, the leader can exert a positive influence on his/her reports’ thoughts, emotions, and actions.
- Self-awareness walks hand-in-hand with humility. Self-aware leaders become humble, opening themselves up to a perpetual hunger to improve. Intellectual humility is the power to know and admit that you do not know everything. Once capable of this feat, the leader grows comfortable enough to acknowledge their flaws and to ask for help.
- Like many of the foundational leadership traits, self-awareness and humility are contagious. An organization-wide culture of self-awareness is a culture focused on learning and improvement.
- The propensity for continuous improvement ushers in the need for regular and consistent feedback. This is where 360-degree rating solutions, such as my Strategic-Tactical Leadership Index prove useful. The STLI-360 helps you assess your leadership effectiveness, giving you a clear picture of where you need to improve.
- Focusing leadership development on self-awareness also helps alleviate and eliminate internal strife in an organization. An atmosphere of self-awareness encourages people to air their grievances and to resolve tensions in an empathetic and open manner.
An organizational culture devoted to self-awareness will create collaboration, empathy, and openness.
- Self-awareness expands the notion of success beyond a personal level. Truly self-aware leaders won’t settle just for personal success. They yearn for more. The success of the organization they lead is but another stepping stone for them. Their ultimate goal is to eventually effect change on a global level. Over the years, I have worked with leaders who have indeed accomplished this seemingly impossible goal.
- Self-aware leaders empower others. This is especially true for unfamiliar and exceptional situations, where they will not hesitate to let those with greater knowledge vault into the spotlight.
My books deliver a great deal of information leadership development-wise. I do feel, however, that I am a better communicator in person.