If you read, follow or subscribe to any leadership or business blogs or magazines, you know that there is a common consensus that organizations understand the importance of self awareness for leaders. Former Forbes contributor, Victor Lipman, states that “you can’t be a really an effective executive if you’re not fully aware of the effect your actions and personality have on others”. Though Lipman focuses on executives, his statement applies to leaders in the home, work, and community. As mentioned by Randy Grieser from The Ordinary Leader, “Strong leaders must know and understand themselves.”
If there is a consensus that organizations require self-aware leaders, then we should assume that most leaders out there are genuinely self-aware. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, at least not according to Tasha Eurich, who discusses self-awareness in her book Insight. Her studies and research found that 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% truly are. Most of here reasons align with the way we see ourselves, our blind spots, and seeing ourselves positively.
The book Self Deception – from my Top New Books for New Leaders also addresses the lack of self-awareness in leaders. Specifically, when we are “in the box”, we see ourselves as the heroes of our own stories. As leaders, we must continuously work towards improving our self-awareness and coaching and mentoring our teams on improving their self-awareness. To be successful leaders we must understand the following:
- What Self Awareness for leaders?
- How are Self-aware leaders different?
- What traits to expect of a self-aware leader?
- Benefits of employing self-aware leaders in our organizations?
What is self awareness for leaders?
We’ve discussed self-awareness in other articles, but let’s recap. Merriam-Webster characterizes self-awareness as “a consciousness of one’s own character or distinction”. However, Dr. Tchlkl Davis ascertains that self-awareness involves monitoring our stress, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Finally, Tasha Eurich divides self-awareness into two components, Internal and External Self Awareness. Internal focus is your understanding of self from an inward approach. In contrast, the external focus is your knowledge of how others see you.
A quick Google search will give you an understanding of what experts agree to as the origin of self-awareness and the generally agreed-upon definition. It is one of the critical components of emotional intelligence (EI), a term begat by analyst Michael Beldoch and generally advocated by Daniel Goleman. It alludes to an individual’s capacity to recognize and deal with their feelings and distinguish and impact others’ feelings. Additionally, as I mention in my article 5 Benefits of Having Emotionally Intelligent Leaders in Your Organization, self-awareness, as a leader, is the initial phase in creating emotionally intelligent leaders.
Characteristics of the self-aware leader
So we have a pretty good idea of self-awareness and how aware leaders are different, but to build self awareness for leaders, what characteristics should they have. Spoiler alert, many of them will likely align with your baseline understanding or expectations of a leader. Here is my list of 8 qualities or characteristics you can expect in a self-aware leader:
1. Representing the Benefit of Everyone
Because of that innate ability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their teams, self-aware leaders have a good feel for how their actions and those of the organization will benefit or hurt the team. This understanding allows self-aware leaders to be true servant leaders and make decisions that will most benefit the group’s wellbeing.
2. Self Awarness for Leaders Require Vision
Leading while remaining aligned with the organization’s vision can be challenging. Leaders are managing diverse personalities, coaching and mentoring, and still accomplishing the tasks assigned by the organization. However, as we build self awareness for leaders, we will notice those leaders begin to understand their triggers and stressors and can self-regulate to remain focused on the organization’s vision.
3. Self Awareness for Leaders Requires Inspiration
Leading while remaining aligned with the organization’s vision can be challenging. Leaders are managing diverse personalities, coaching and mentoring, and still accomplishing the tasks assigned by the organization. However, self-aware leaders understand their triggers and stressors and can self-regulate to remain focused on the organization’s vision.
4. Driving with Strengths
A characteristic that may be less noticeable is how the self-aware leader leans on his or her strengths t excel in accomplishing the organizational tasks. Their understanding of self allows them to highlight their strengths in usually work to improve on the weaknesses only when this improvement does not affect organizational goals.
5. Self Awareness for Leaders Requires Clear Communication
By having external self-awareness, self-aware leaders understand how others perceive them. This understanding significantly increases the leader’s communication skills. Now the leader understands the impact of their words and the meanings behind their words and can adjust to influence those they communicate with regularly.
6. Conflict Resolution
The ability to clear and effectively communicate goes a long way in conflict management. Self-aware leaders are usually highly skilled arbiters since they can venture outside of their viewpoint and see issues from others’ views. Conflict resolution is a skill that is needed and is invaluable within any organization.
7. Self Awareness for Leaders Requires Modesty
The great thing about understanding your strengths and weaknesses is that you don’t need to boast or brag about your accomplishments. You know that you have plenty of aspects that you need to improve. Therefore self-aware leaders are usually modest. Instead of drawing attention to their accomplishments, they focus on ways to self-improve to increase their strengths.
Self-aware leaders are secure in their skills and abilities. They know what they are good and what they are not. This knowledge allows them to present an air of confidence and certainty as leaders. Team members and organizational leaders alike appreciate and are motivated and influenced by confident and secure leaders in their decisions and actions.
How self awareness for leaders benefit the organization
Self-aware leaders that drive organizational success with their strengths and acknowledge and consistently work to improve their shortcomings garner trust and respect from their colleagues, team members, and leaders. This respect becomes infectious and contributes to a culture of maximizing strengths and consistent self-improvement within their teams. As a result, self awareness for leaders helps the organization thrive and meet strategic goals as the newly established culture propels learning and improvement. The benefits for the organization are numerous, but those that have the most significant impact on the organizational culture and success are:
- Maximizing team member strengths and improving their weaknesses
- Quickly resolving conflicts within the organization
- Increased influence internal and external to the organization due to superb communication s skills
Self awareness for leaders is critical to the success of all organizations. Therefore, organizational leaders must first truly understand what self-awareness is, identify the traits in potential leaders, and foster a self-aware culture. Hopefully, I’ve provided a couple of tips on recognizing the characteristics of self-aware leaders. However, these are just my thoughts. I would love to know what you think. Feel free to check out more of the blog, as well as leave your comments below.