All great leaders have one thing in common: They’ve mastered the ability to understand their own thoughts, emotions, strengths, and capabilities. They’re self-aware. And, great leaders connect, inspire, encourage, and motivate others to become their very best, so they deliver their absolute best work for the betterment of the team.
If you think back to all your past leaders, managers, and co-workers, a few examples may come to mind of people who believed they were self-aware but, in reality, not so much. Researcher, organizational psychologist, and NY Times bestselling author, Tasha Eurich, explains in her HBR article, “We’ve found that even though most people believe they’re self-aware, self-awareness is truly a rare quality: We estimate only 10%–15% of the people we studied actually fit the criteria.”
Before we can effectively connect with and lead other people, we first must learn to lead ourselves—diving into the process of self-mastery, beginning with self-awareness.
The Risks of Lacking Self-Awareness
- If you fail to realize our emotional triggers (events that cause us stress, tension, sadness, or frustration), you run the risk of being overcome with negativity, which may cause you to react negatively or in poor form.
- Unless or until you understand your natural strengths and limitations, you run the risk of working in jobs or careers that unfortunately may never give you a sense of enjoyment, pride in our work, or a sense of purpose in your life.
- Unless you’re aware of your own capabilities, you run the risk of never understanding your self-worth. This limits your ability to grow personally and professionally, which could limit your self-confidence and sense of fulfillment in your life and work.
The good news is that you can continuously learn about yourself, gaining insight into your emotions, natural strengths, and capabilities. Most importantly, by increasing your self-awareness, you’ll discover more impactful ways to connect with, inspire, encourage, and motivate your team.
Four Ways to Become a Better Leader by Becoming More Self-Aware
- Reflect and keep a journal. Carve out time each day to pause and reflect. Simply take ten minutes to yourself and assess how you’re feeling and what may have triggered your thoughts and feelings. Keep a journal, capturing your thoughts and feelings in specific situations, and you’ll soon learn your emotional triggers. Once you’re aware of what triggers your emotions or negative thoughts, you can begin working on responding instead of reacting.
- Personality and strengths assessments. Invest in personality and strengths assessments such as DiSC®, Myers-Briggs®, True Colors®, Emotional Intelligence 2.0®, or CliftonStrengths®. You’ll gain insight into your tendencies and personality traits that make you, you. You’ll also learn your natural strengths, which will give you confidence and boost your self-worth.
- Feedback from loved ones. Seek honest, direct feedback from close friends and family who love you and want to see you grow. You need to be selective and make sure you seek feedback from friends and family members who are not afraid to share the good, bad, and ugly with you. It may be awkward and difficult to hear in the moment, but just remind yourself that all feedback is a gift that can help you improve, grow, and develop into the best version of yourself.
- Anonymous feedback from direct reports. Asking for feedback from direct reports is risky but effective if you do it the right way. Of course, the risk is that people will hold back and hesitate to be honest—that’s why it’s important to keep it anonymous. Your direct reports will often see things you do not see. Awareness of how your own thoughts, emotions, and tendencies affect those around you (positively and negatively) gives you the ability to capitalize on what you do well and intentionally work on areas that serve as opportunities for improvement.
While a lack of self-awareness could cost you, increasing your self-awareness will propel you in life and career. Be vulnerable enough to discover more about your emotions, strengths, and capabilities, and be courageous enough to leverage the insight you gain to become the best leader you can be.