Elevating leadership for organisational success. Where do I start?

Self-awareness is “the awareness of one’s personality and individuality.” Seemingly simple a concept, it is actually hard to develop this attribute successfully. Constant, conscious effort is needed to understand ourselves, those around us, our rules and their interaction with the environment. People who have successfully developed a keen sense of self-awareness go on to cultivate a high level of emotional intelligence, which has proven particularly valuable in leadership.

What is self-awareness in leadership?

Self-awareness in leadership is an understanding of how personality traits, habits and abilities affect interactions with the people around you, particularly in the workplace. Leaders who are self-aware actively reflect on how the things they say and do are perceived by others and actively work to improve on any shortcomings. This helps them grow into more effective leaders. Having an acute sense of self-awareness thus leads not only to personal growth but also helps leaders leverage on their strengths to drive the best possible outcomes for their teams.

Why is self-awareness in leadership important?

Self-awareness is one of the most important qualities in leadership for the following reasons:

  • Strength awareness. Understand strengths and personal characteristics can help leaders better carry out their responsibilities.
  • Better decisioning. Being keenly self-aware helps leaders better manage their own behaviour and relationships leading to more effective decision-making. 
  • Manage expectations. Be realistic in their expectations by cultivating a mindset of “reality is truth”. Targets that are too lofty will be discouraging while those too low can get boring very quickly. Being self-aware can be helpful in striking the right balance.
  • Healthier finances. Self-aware leaders make better financial decisions leading to better outcomes for the company.

Characteristics of self-aware Leaders

One of the most important character traits of self-aware leaders is having intellectual humility, which is simply acknowledging that you don’t know everything — first about yourself, second about others and then, about the world. That can then set the stage to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable acknowledging his or her flaws and asking for help.

Besides being humble, self-aware leaders are always looking to improve. They recognize their own strengths, weaknesses, deficiencies, biases and take accountability for them, consistently seeking to improve. They are always asking ‘How can I do better?’”

Organizational benefits of Self-aware Leadership

By becoming more self-aware and subsequently recognizing their strengths, weaknesses and hidden biases, leaders gain the trust of their team members and ultimately increase their own credibility. Additionally, a firm-wide culture of self-awareness advances learning and development by promoting the value of continuous growth and development.

How to improve self-awareness in leadership

Consider these steps to help you improve self-awareness in your leadership style:

1. Know yourself. Be honest about your good and bad points

2. Identify how other people react to you

3. Gather constructive feedback from trusted contacts

4. Find opportunities to demonstrate empathy

5. Be perceptive about your traits and how they affect others

6. Build your emotional intelligence

8. Think, act, reflect. Repeat in a virtuous cycle.

9. Get a coach. Hold yourself accountable for growth.

Self-aware leaders strive beyond individual success. They want to use their expertise and influence to enact change on a bigger scale. At its core, self-awareness offers leaders far more than another tool for success. It keeps them grounded, which lays a solid foundation to help them influence and impact not just the team, but also the wider community and the world around them.