The Intentional Leader

Self Awareness

Self-Awareness: A foundation for intentional leadership

Leadership is not overly complicated, but it is a pretty multifaceted concept that requires a combination of mindsets, qualities, skills, and traits to be effective. Among these, self-awareness stands out as a critical component. 

A lack of self awareness topped the list of the 2021 Good Boss Bad Boss Survey, with 34.7% or respondents citing that it was a key trait of the worst bosses they ever worked for.

In this article we will explore what is self-awareness, why its important for leaders and what you can do to increase it.


What is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to recognise and understand one's whole self (values, beliefs, thoughts, feelings, strengths and weaknesses) and how others perceive us and why.

In other words, do we know who we really are, and do we know how others see us and why they see us this way.


The Four Archetypes of Self-Awareness

This 2x2 maps internal self awareness (how you know yourself) against external self awareness (how well you understand how other see you).

Why is Self-Awareness Important? 

There are a whole raft of reasons why self-awareness is a critical leadership component, including:

  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to be authentic and genuine in how they show up and communicate with others.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to understand the impact of their actions and words on those around them.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to recognise their own personal biases, blindspots and limitations and how they impact decision-making.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to be confident in their abilities, making decisions and explaining the rationale behind those decisions.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses and delegate tasks to others who are better equipped.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to be more open and transparent, which creates a culture of trust and mutual respect within their teams.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to understand and regulate their emotions and remain calm and focussed under pressure.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to recognise the emotions of those around them and be empathetic to their needs.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to be open to new ideas and perspectives whilst not being afraid to challenge assumptions and beliefs.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to seek feedback from others and to learn from their experiences.
  • Self-aware leaders are more likely to embrace a growth mindset and have greater self-confidence and resilience.

Now, whilst I have looked at self-awareness from a leadership perspective, its pretty easy to see how it benefits everyone.


How to Cultivate your Self-Awareness

There are not hard and fast rules when it comes to cultivating self-awareness, as different approaches work for different people. That said, here are some of the more common methods:

Engage in Self-Exploration: Personality assessments and values and beliefs inventories can help you to getter a better understanding of who you are (values, beliefs, behaviours).

Engage in Self-Reflection: Take time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and consider how these factors may be affecting your leadership effectiveness. 

Seek Feedback: Reach out to the people around you for honest and candid feedback. Explain your rationale for seeking their feedback and how it will help you to become a better leader.

Engage a Coach: A coach can help you identify congruence between your inner and outer self by finding the linked between your self-exploration, self-reflection and feedback.

Practice Mindfulness: Focus on being present and fully engaged in the current moment, without judgment or distraction. Block out any inner conversations and thoughts as you focus on the hear and now.


In Summary

Self-aware leaders are more likely to have a better relationship with themselves and the people around them as there is more congruence between how well they know themselves and how well they understand how others see them.