Successful leaders of today who excel at leading in their organisations will show some degree of developed self-awareness. Self-awareness is a highly important leadership skill that these people utilise to be more effective.
Self-awareness helps leaders to enhance their ability to make decisions, to communicate within their organisations and externally, as well as positively guide teams to perform.
In this article, I’ll be exploring self-awareness in the context of its importance in leadership and sharing some actionable strategies for leaders in developing self-awareness and improve their effectiveness.
So what exactly is self-awareness in the context of leadership?
I. Understanding Self-Awareness:
A. Definition of self-awareness in the leadership context.
Self-awareness can be described as the ability to recognise and understand one’s own thoughts, emotions, words and actions.
This ability to monitor ourselves, to know ourselves enables us to decide how to respond to events and decide what to do next for more intentional outcomes.
As well as being about the self, it can also extend to the effect that these thoughts, emotions, words and actions exert on others.
Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence. When you are connected to your state of being, then you are better equipped to connect to others through empathy.
Having an elevated level of self-awareness enables a leader to lead themselves, and this ability to lead oneself gives the benefit of being a better and more empowered leader of others.
B. Benefits of self-awareness for leaders and their teams.
A leader who has a developed level of self-awareness will monitor what they are thinking, feeling and their behaviour and communication. They would be better placed to exercise self control and discipline for both themselves and the team members they are working with. When mistakes are made, the self aware leader is able to respond appropriately by calling them out and taking ownership as needed.
A leader who practices self-awareness as a developed habit will demonstrate to their team and organisation, thereby encouraging for others by example.
C. How self-awareness contributes to emotional intelligence.
Self-awareness which is about knowing yourself and your impact on others helps you to maintain strong relationships, builds trust, improves your communication skills. These outcomes are effectively key results of emotional intelligence. By developing self-awareness, emotional intelligence are enhanced.
D. Common barriers to self-awareness and their impact on leadership effectiveness.
Over confident people will over look their need for self introspection and not be open to areas for self improvement. Leaders with a defensive mindset or a strong ego prevents them from accepting feedback or acknowledging their weaknesses.
Leaders who are unaware of their biases may unwittingly exercise poor judgement which leads to poor outcomes. Those leaders who do not know what their blindspots are will have a tendency to make decisions based on incomplete information.
II. Assessing Your Current Level of Self-Awareness:
Assessing current level of self-awareness can be conducted in a number of ways.
A. Reflection exercises to evaluate self-awareness.
Journaling prompts for introspection is one way. Seeking “qualified” feedback from trusted colleagues and team members is invaluable as long as they have experience of working with you. For this feedback, it is important that the feedback is not just from people with whom the leader expects only positive feedback, because that would be counter productive. Personality assessments and other types of self assessment tools are also helpful complement to assess one’s own level of self-awareness.
B. Identifying patterns and blind spots in your leadership style.
Being aware of your own leadership style is an important ability to have. From this, it is possible to better identify our behavioural patterns and blind spots that we have a tendency to overlook. If a senior leader is used to not being receiving honest feedback from colleagues in lower levels of the organisation, they may develop a false sense that they are performing optimally without fault.
C. Understanding the impact of your emotions on decision-making and interactions.
Our emotional state influences our ability to make rational decisions and interact optimally with others. If we are experiencing an emotional state of high stress, we would be less likely to make well reasoned assessments and decisions. If our self-awareness highlights this emotional state to us when we are faced with a decision, then we can act accordingly – whether that is to postpone the decision making allowing oneself time to return to a more suitable emotional state, or delegate the decision to someone.
The impact of our emotions on how we interact with others is evident. Recall a time when you were feeling happy and you’d be more inclined to interact more positively with others. Conversely if you are in a highly stressed state, you may not be as patient in your meetings with colleagues.
To understand how our emotions affect our ability to interact and lead is key. With this we can exercise our ability to better regulate ourselves to be more empowered leaders.
III. Cultivating Self-Awareness as a Leader:
Given the benefits of having good self-awareness, it is of vital importance that a person who identifies as a leader, proactively cultivates their self-awareness.
Key practices include spending time regularly to self reflect, journalling and daily mindfulness exercises
We can stop to notice our own emotions with increasing reliability. We could make intentioned efforts to empathising with others and seek to understand their perspectives. We can also enhance our social awareness and interpersonal skills.
Creating relationships with mentors and coaches and peers for support and guidance can be of great help for developing self-awareness in addition to personal solitary introspection alone. A coach can present reflective questions that you would not encounter in any other context.
IV. Applying Self-Awareness in Leadership:
How can self-awareness be applied to leadership?
With decision making, being attuned to your own values and aligning them with your leadership decisions. Recognising and managing your biases and assumptions will help to leverage your ability to make key decisions reliably.
Recognising your own communication style and adapting it to different circumstances will result from applying self-awareness. Noticing the way you communicate will also provide the basis from which improvements can be made so that your messages land with the audience. Demonstrating active listening and seeking to understand before being understood will help to build authentic and impactful communication.
Recognising strengths and areas for growth and development
Self-awareness allows the leader to be know their own unique strengths and areas where further growth support would be beneficial. With this self knowledge, the self-aware leader can apply themselves optimally and know when to bring in others with the needed skills to address deficient areas of ability. The self-awareness of a leader enables them to objectively assess their abilities. With this awareness, the leader can also spot the strengths and growth areas in the colleagues they lead.
Building strong relationships
The self-aware leader is attuned to the needs of the people they lead. Their communication ability is enhanced. They can better support their teams. They can confidently hold spaces of psychological safety for their colleagues, so that problems can be openly discussed and resolved. With their emotional intelligence and ability to manage their own emotions, they can create great rapport.
Leading by example
The self aware leader models this skill set to others, inspiring them to grow this skill for themselves. The leader effectively creates new leaders.
Self-awareness is of fundamental importance for leaders and their teams. It helps leaders to assess themselves and provides them with the improved ability to respond to the changing world they face and lead. It is for this reason, that the pillar of self-awareness is the foundation that I start from when coaching executive clients.
To work with Jung, contact him by email email@example.com or book a strategy call on https://letsmeet.io/jungpersonalmasteryltd/strategy-call.