Self-awareness & Success – To be able to lead others, you must know yourself
09 Oct 2015

Self-awareness & Success – To be able to lead others, you must know yourself


categories: Leadership, Learning methodology, Teamwork & Team Building

“Self-awareness” is a concept that has been widely examined and researched in varied fields, such as philosophy, social science, psychology and more recently, leadership development. This increasingly discussed notion has been described as a psychological catalyst – one that exemplifies the effect of other essential leadership qualities, like vision, charisma, communication or strategic thinking.

As a leader, one of your primary tasks is to motivate and inspire others – to get people to believe in their work and more importantly to inspire them to perform better. In order to carry out this role successfully, it is essential that you are in tune with what truly drives or inspires you.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to gain a better understanding of what makes up your internal thought process:

What principles guide your behaviour?

What is your leadership style?

How do you cope with challenging situations?

How does your behaviour impact your employees or team members?

These are just a few of the questions that will lead to an improved understanding of yourself; there are several other ways in which you can introspect and draw conclusions about what drives you personally and professionally.

What is self-awareness?

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the concept itself. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings”. Throughout history, the phrase nosce teipsum, “know thyself”, has intrigued scientists and researchers and has led to extensive reporting on the topic. The concept has been studied under the broader umbrella of emotional intelligence, most notably by Daniel Goleman, author and pioneer in the field. According to him, self-awareness is most strongly associated with self-regulation and empathy, which are both key to creating positive emotions in those around us. He adds that self-awareness is crucial for all levels of success.

Self-awareness and Leadership – Why should it matter to you?

Most theorists agree that an important part of self-awareness is to identify your fundamental flaws and work on them. Successful leaders are not afraid to introspect and acknowledge their imperfections; rather they recognise their weaknesses and make efforts to improve.
Self-awareness will help you to:

  • Make decisions
    In a Harvard Business Review article, “Managing Oneself,” Peter Drucker wrote, “Whenever you make a decision or take a key decision, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the results with what you expected.” Drucker called this self-reflection process feedback analysis and said it was the “only way to discover your strengths.”
  • Communicate effectively
    “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”Stephen R. Covey
    As a leader, you need to endeavour to listen without forming judgements or making assumptions. To succeed at this, introspection and a deep understanding of your own communication style and thought pattern is essential.
  • Embrace your failures
    A huge part of being a successful leader is being honest with your team – honest about success and failure. By acknowledging failure, you are defining the problem. And an important step to a better outcome is to provide clarity and unambiguity.
  • Balance power and empathy
    As a leader you are inclined to make the final decision or assume that your judgement is sound and without errors. Research by Adam D. Galinsky and colleagues at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management reported that increased power tends to make one more self-centred and self-assured, but not in a good way. The researchers found that power makes one “prone to dismiss or, at the very least, misunderstand the viewpoints of those who lack authority”. In the light of this information, it is vital to appraise your own emotions and vulnerabilities to effectively manage other people.
  • Create an optimistic vision
    Self-awareness leads to a more confident and positive attitude, which is instrumental in creating an optimistic vision for the future. Your team will learn to trust and depend on you when you exhibit a clear understanding of the current situation. This clarity translates into better planning and helps you build a future that reflects your organisation’s goals and objectives.

ProfitAbility has designed simulations that provide constructive solutions to a number of leadership challenges and help you discover how you can be a better leader. To attend one of our simulations or have one customised to your organisation’s specific requirements, you can get in touch with us here.

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