We tend to think of leadership as a role focused on the outside world: managing time, working with others and getting results. To a large extent, this is true, but this model misses a key insight: great leadership begins within, and one of its foundations is self-awareness.
What Is Self-Awareness?
Simply put, self-awareness is paying attention to your own emotions: what triggers them, how you react to them, and how they affect (negatively or positively) your performance and your behavior.
Self-awareness is key to managing our emotions and stress and is also an important element of personal development.
Why is Self-Awareness Important for Leaders?
There is a very basic reason why increasing your level of self-awareness should be one of your priorities. How can you improve as a leader if you are not aware of the areas you have to work on?
Furthermore: How can you get team members that complement your skills if you don’t identify your shortcomings?
Research suggests that the higher your position in the workplace, the harder you should work to become more self-aware.
In a 2003 study, researchers asked members of different organizations to rank themselves and their colleagues. The results show that the gap between how individuals perceive themselves and how others perceive them was wider in people in higher positions.
In other words, as you gain power, people become more reluctant to share their views with you. This is a danger every leader should keep in mind.
How to Increase Your Self-Awareness
In his book Focus, author Daniel Goleman suggests a “360-degree evaluation” as an instrument to help you become more self-aware.
This exercise consists in rating yourself on a range of traits and then asking people you trust to evaluate you on the same scale. It’s important to ensure that the evaluations from others are anonymous so they feel free to be frank. The gap between your self-score and the scores that others give you will reveal how self-aware you are.
If the above example feels too complicated, you can just ask your friends for a candid opinion about you. These are some other ways to increase your self-awareness:
- Get feedback regularly.
- Take a psychometric test.
- Put your thoughts in writing.
- Listen more.