Why self-awareness is a critical leadership skill

by Apr 2, 2017

Why self-awareness is vital as a leader


In a swingeing letter to Donald Trump, Maureen Dowd the US columnist says that Trump sought to model himself on Ronald Reagan. “As you saw it, Reagan was a big, good-looking guy with a famous pompadour; he had also been a Democrat and an entertainer.”  But she goes on to say there was one significant difference between them. “Reagan had one key quality that you don’t have: he knew what he didn’t know “  That key difference is rooted in self-awareness.

[Tweet “To understand what you don’t know, you have to be completely aware of what you do know.”] For leaders who have taken the time to do their inner work and nail the very basics, self-awareness will be like a second skin. It was not for nothing that Aristotle said “Knowing thyself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Self-awareness is a key leadership skill and one that we can sadly see is ubiquitously lacking as many leaders embark on self-destrutive and short term paths. The problem is that when their self-awareness needle drops to below acceptable levels, their empathy quotient does too. We are then left with the train wreck leadership scenarios that we see in many situations in politics and business today, where leaders are found to lack authority, moral and real.  Or just found lacking, period.

Research suggests that 90% of decisions are made with an unconscious mind, which maybe only obvious to us afterwards. So self-awareness involves us learning to manage our unconscious minds and to understand the unconscious thoughts behind our reactions.

Read: Values based leadership needed more than ever 

So what can you do to get on track to self-awareness?


Do your inner work

Knowing your personal beliefs and how they fit in with your view of the world and therefore expectations of it, is vital. If your personal belief is for openness and diversity then any action that contravenes that belief will be profound.  It’s also important to understand your vision and values and goals.  They don’t have to be written on a flip chart or spread sheet. Some top performers use beer mats or napkins. [Tweet “Know your strengths and your weaknesses and get feedback.”] When do you think Donald Trump last had any open and honest feedback?

Read: Going to the Root with Awareness Coaching

How do you handle stress?

Understanding how you handle stress is key to self-awareness. Learning how to monitor the triggers and situations that cause a stressfull reaction is paramount. Triggers can be anything that create a negative state and many can be unconscious triggers. It could be a car back firing, or chipped nail polish or a certain accent or manner.  Then understanding how you exhibit those stresses is also important. Do you shut down, rampage or emote? Developing coping strategies is also critical to managing the outcomes of these situation which disturb our equilibriums.

Read: Stressed? Then you have to read this

What is your communication style and preference

Knowing your preferences in this area helps develop an awareness of affinity and confirmation bias so you stop surrounding yourself with “mini-mes.”  Differences in communication style can also be sources of stress so they are a must have on any self-awareness check list.

Read: How to manage different communication styles

Understanding your limiting beliefs

Owning and having a realistic idea of our limitations gives us an accurate view of our role in the world. You may not be able to rock climb if you have a back problem, but you may be able to cycle. This is not to be confused with self-sabotaging beliefs such as “I will never be able to get that promotion because…”    

Having a view of the future

Having a view of the future, your future, and being able to plan and set goals is important. That view keeps you in a forward thinking mode. It doesn’t mean that you are not present. It simply suggests that everything you do has a purpose and you do it with intent.

Self-awareness means you understand your own needs, desires, weaknesses, habits, likes and disikes and everything else that makes you who you are.  But the more you know about yourself, the better you will be at adjusting to the challenges of every day life situations and those people around you.

Need coaching for your leadership skills? Contact 3Plus now!

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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