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The Journey To Becoming A Self-Aware Leader

Effective leadership, regardless of what sector you work in or the type of job you do, requires a deep level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. As leaders we need to be able to continually tune in to our own emotions and the emotions of others, as well as developing sound situational awareness when leading a team. The ability to read a room and pick up on those hard to read and sometimes hidden messages is key.

What is Self-Awareness?

Put simply self-awareness is the awareness of one’s own personality. It is fair to say that the journey of self-awareness is continuous and requires conscious effort to help understand who we are and who others are too.

Self-awareness is one of the key elements of emotional intelligence (EQ). This is a term coined by psychologist Michael Beldoch and widely popularised by Daniel Goleman. It refers to a person’s ability to identify and manage their emotions and identify and influence others’ emotions. Developing self-awareness as a leader is the first step in developing EQ, which is critical to effective leadership.

Developing self-awareness as a leader strengthens individual performance and business performance as well. The more we know and understand ourselves and those around us, the better placed we are to support in the right way.

As leaders we also have a moral obligation to care. To care about the people in our team, to make a difference in terms of their growth and development and to help to create a better workplace. This obligation is part of our humility that engages us and motivates us to invest in not only ourselves but in others and their opportunity to improve.

Characteristics of Self-aware Leaders

Humility is one of the most important characteristics associated with self-aware leaders because once we fully understand and like ourselves, we can better learn to appreciate others as well.

Practicing humility in the workplace can be uncomfortable for some as it requires a certain amount of vulnerability. People need to acknowledge and accept their flaws as well as their strengths, so that individuals and the team as a whole can continue to thrive and flourish.

Continuous Improvement is also a key part of becoming a self-aware leader through the identification of ways to improve the self, others, ways of working and results.

Here are some ways that you can seek continuous improvement:

Be responsible

Recognise your own strengths and weaknesses and hidden biases and take ownership for them.

Be curious

Ask for continual feedback in order to improve. Whether this is through a 180 or a 360-degree feedback, involving line managers and team members.

Be inspired

Invest in continual professional development and personal growth. Self-aware leaders embrace and recognise the value of continuous learning and growth.

Be humble

Acknowledge that you are not perfect and open to different ways to improve.

Leaders who are self-aware are more likely to be high-performing, meet their business goals, and save on turnover costs. Korn Ferry Institute

Don't point the finger

Lastly, remember that self-aware leaders do not blame but instead make a conscious effort to forgive. If your team are terrified that they will get the blame for something, then they are less likely to put themselves out there and be open to new experiences and challenges, for fear of things going wrong. By creating an environment that doesn’t use blame and shows a willingness to let go and forgive, you encourage individual ownership. This helps leaders and their teams to move on quickly and not dwell on the past. It makes the leader far more approachable and a more positive role model for the rest of the team which in turn increases their own credibility.

Remember that developing self-awareness helps leaders to positively impact the business. Teams led by self-aware leaders are less likely to experience internal conflict, creating an environment, culture and space for people to address their tensions in a more open and frictionless way.


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