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Know Thyself

June 9, 2020 in

The Importance of Building Self-Awareness as a Leader

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom” -Socrates

We have all had a boss who is just clueless. Not necessarily about work, but about their own cognition, which in turn affects his social abilities and is tied to a general lack of emotional intelligence. The character, Michael Scott, from the television show, The Office, is a well-known example of a boss who has little to no self-awareness in many situations. In the show, Michael commonly displays a lack of understanding of his own thoughts and feelings. As a result, he tends to say and do things that insult, anger, and de-motivate his subordinates, leading to an ineffective work environment.

Needless to say, a leader’s level of self-awareness makes a difference in the workplace. Our Resilient and Adaptable Leader© program is broken into two phases where first you focus on leading yourself and second on leading others. Leading yourself is all about building the self-awareness that is needed to help leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses and how they are perceived by others.

Benefits of Self-Aware Leaders

Research shows that self-awareness is significantly associated with leadership effectiveness.1 Dr. Burt Giges, a well-known sport psychologist,  described the benefits of self-awareness as,  “a major advantage of such knowledge is an increased ability to be in charge of oneself, enabling individuals to be less distracted by their own feelings, wants, and values and better able to respond to others effectively.”2 Essentially, this tells us that self-awareness increases a leader’s ability to adapt after mistakes and maintain focus.

How to Develop Self-Awareness

Self-awareness sounds like a great thing to have, but how can you develop it?

  1. Work on your self-talk

Zinsser et.al (2010) suggests one way to improve self-awareness is to work on your self-talk. Self-talk is your inner voice that can be motivating (e.g. “I can do this), defeating (“I stink at this), or instructional (“listen carefully during this meeting”). Research suggests that this can be done by first, noticing your self-talk. When you become aware of your self-talk, you can start detecting patterns. Second, reflect on your self-talk. Decide if your self-talk and patterns are productive or counterproductive. Third, change your self-talk as needed. Once you have gained greater understanding and regulation of your self-talk, you can begin to see the benefits of self-awareness in leadership.

  1. Ask “What?” instead of “Why?”

As Tasha Eurich and colleagues found in their study, asking why rather than what is an ineffective way to build self-awareness and it actually impairs one’s ability to be self-aware.

For example, a leader might be struggling with an employee who often vocalizes ideas that the leader quickly dismisses. The employee starts to feel they are not being heard and begins to continuously display resistance to the leader’s direction. A leader that lacks self-awareness might say to themselves, “why is this employee always so resistant to my authority?” Whereas, a self-aware leader will ask themselves, “What can I do to make my employee feel like they are being heard?”

This sounds like a very simple process, but developing self-awareness requires time and practice. Building self-awareness is an ongoing practice and is never truly complete.

Need Help?

Our team of High-Performance experts are trained in the proven process to achieve high levels of self-awareness. Reach out today to learn more about our Resilient and Adaptable Leader program for you or your team.

  1. Sosik, J. J., & Megerian, L. E. (1999). Understanding leader emotional intelligence and performance: The role of self–other agreement on transformational leadership perceptions. Group & Organization Management, 24(3), 367–390. https://doi.org/10.1177/1059601199243006
  2. Giges, B. (2004). Helping coaches meet their own needs: Challenges for the sport psychology consultant. The Sport Psychologist, 18, 430-444.