Self-Awareness for Leaders is important
For more than a year I have been interviewing leaders throughout the world as part of study on leadership. I interviewed Chrissie Bettencourt, owner of Awaken Your Senses. Chrissie is also a Virtual Chief Operating Officer. Chrissie noted ‘There are a lot of new forms of leadership. Leading by example is important. That authenticity is not developed in training. It’s a huge thing, it’s important to be who you are, to really connect with yourself. What do you stand for, what are your beliefs, do you do personal growth work?”
An April 2014 article in Forbes underlined the importance of self-awareness for leaders. And in 2007 an article in Inc.com also stressed the importance of self-aware and authentic leaders. There are countless other sources that support the idea that an effective leader needs to be aware of their internal dialogue and mindful of the consequence his/her actions. So why is that so many leaders find it difficult to take the time to do work on themselves and to be more attuned to what they are really thinking and truly feeling? Here are some common reasons and what you can do to overcome them:
Masks: Everyone has masks. Masks are defined roles or attributes we take on in specific settings. How we act in a company meeting isn’t always the same as when we engage in a volunteer meeting. But our values, passions, beliefs and interests should align even if they are expressed differently in other settings.
Strategy: reflect on which roles empower you and find ways to expand your involvement in those situations. What is it about those situations that you find rewarding and how does that relate to your identity, your value system and your vision of the world? If you express radically different values in separate settings, ask yourself why that is? Are you afraid of saying your true beliefs? Why is the opinion of those in those groups so important to you that you are willing to deny yourself your own values?
Fatigue: People get worn down. Maybe working in an organisation that doesn’t resonate with you for so long has made you lose touch with yourself. You’ve had to hide true self for so long, you’re afraid you’ve lost touch with yourself.
Strategy: If this is the case, why are you still working there? If you have to work there, are there other avenues, other groups of people you could connect with to reconnect with yourself and associate more frequently with others who share your values and beliefs?
Fear: Confronting yourself can be emotionally difficult. When all of your energy is directed outward and you’re not comfortable in your own skin, you’re likely acting out of fear. You feel discomfort and distress when you are alone, have opportunities to reflect or when you are asked to take responsibility.
Strategy: It’s not easy facing yourself. It’s often the most difficult work of all. Although never easy, especially not at first, reflecting on your own actions and how they contributed to a situation will in the long term increase your self-esteem. Recall a project that failed and your role in it. What would you do differently this time? Own the good and the bad. Now recall a project that succeeded and your role in that success. Own both your positive and negative contributions. How can pick up on signals you’re sending yourself earlier? What can you do to find the courage to speak up when you notice something has gone wrong?
When you focus on improving your self-awareness, you’re benefiting yourself and your colleagues by ensuring that your actions are better aligned and consistent. As with all other things pertaining to leadership, you must set the example. Exploring and understanding your thoughts and feelings can be uncomfortable for many. When you do comprehend them better, you’re more focused and more balanced. By increasing your self-awareness, you’re improving your authenticity, sincerity, trustworthiness and accountability, all traits of a quality leader.