What’s the most valuable quality in an effective leader? A growing body of evidence suggests it’s self-awareness: the ability to monitor your emotions and moods, know your strengths and weaknesses, and understand how others perceive you.
According to Daniel Goleman, self-awareness is one of the core components of emotional intelligence. It’s a hot commodity in today’s leadership world. Self-aware people have stronger relationships, are more empathetic, fulfilled, creative and confident, and are better communicators (amongst other attributes). They also have enhanced leadership capabilities, with one study by the Korn Ferry Institute directly connecting self-aware leaders to corporate performance, finding that companies with a higher rate of return (ROR) also employ professionals who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness.
So, how do you become more self-aware? Here are five tips to get started.
1. Write down your story
This should be a detailed description of yourself, encompassing the key experiences that have shaped you, what matters most to you and the people you care about. I call this an ‘I am…’ statement. It’s a great opportunity to focus on your positive attributes, but also explore your so-called blind spots: any skewed or limiting beliefs you’ve picked up, skill deficits, values you think you hold but that you don’t live and work by, things you wish for but don’t work for, and barriers to your greater success, happiness or empowerment. Be honest. This exercise will help you pinpoint what makes you uniquely you.
2. Ask for feedback
Do you value a different perspective? Do you accept that others often see you differently from how you see yourself? If you give people permission to tell you the truth about what they are observing in you, you have a chance to examine all the information about who you are being, rather than just half of it – your own perspective. When you hear someone else’s viewpoint, you become more acutely self-aware and more knowledgeable about the impact you can have on others. You have the chance to identify your blind spots and to reflect, change, improve and grow. Asking others ‘What’s it like being around me?’ is one of the most useful strategies for determining who you are.
3. Identify your derailers
In their book Why CEOs Fail, authors David Dotlich and Peter Cairo outline 11 common characteristics of derailed top executives. These are: arrogance, melodrama, volatility, excessive caution, habitual distrust, aloofness, mischievousness, eccentricity, passive resistance, perfectionism and eagerness to please. Such traits reveal themselves particularly when you’re tired, stressed, overworked – in other words, when your hackles are up and your buttons too easily pushed. But by identifying these derailers, you can learn to develop strategies to keep them in check.
4. Consider your questions
Organisational psychologist Tasha Eurich believes that the words you use when questioning your behaviour or feelings can have a significant impact on your response. She suggests that instead of asking yourself ‘Why?’ all the time, ask ‘What?’. For example, an employee stuck in a job they hate might ask ‘Why do I feel so terrible?’, but by turning it around to ‘What are the situations that make me feel terrible and what do they have in common?’ they’re in a better position to reflect on their experience and make a plan to change it.
5. Make time for self-reflection
In an ideal world, you’d set aside time each day to reflect on what went well (or not so well), how you responded to certain events, how you felt and whether you flexed your self-awareness muscle or reacted impulsively to whatever transpired. Keeping a journal is a powerful tool to record your thoughts and will also allow you to free up some brain space as you write it all down. Taking the time to reflect and ask yourself these questions will give you a greater understanding of who you are and also help you identify any areas that could do with some work.
Coaching questions to consider:
- What do you know about you?
- What do you not know about you?
- What do others know about you?
- What do others not know about you?
- What do you want others to know about you?
This may also interest you: Do You Know Who You Are?
Before you leave to check out other articles on our website, watch this Leaderonomics video where Evamaria de Boer shares effective leadership tips that can be implemented in your organisation.