How Leaders Increase Self-Awareness
Leaders are frequently told to focus on followers. Many would do better by increasing their self-awareness to better serve those around them.
For more than a year I interviewed leaders throughout the world as part of a study on leadership. What I learned was that raising self-awareness for leaders was essential, but that how leaders increase self-awareness became clear when they had to overcome some barriers.
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?”
There are many articles which underline the importance of self-awareness for leaders. Its clear self-awareness is a component of authenticity for leaders too. 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 of 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:
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.
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? 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?
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 your true self for so long, you’re afraid you’ve lost touch with yourself.
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? How can you associate more frequently with others who share your values and beliefs?
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.
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.
Renée helps business get unstuck. Through business relationship mapping, conflict resolution and leadership development, Renée helps entrepreneurs and businesses understand their ecosystems, identify underutilised resources and opportunities to engage.
Renée works at both ends of the spectrum: from the fun stuff of building excellent teams to dealing with low morale. She helps managers take workplace bullies by the horns, address long standing conflicts, all of the frustrating stuff to harnessing the energy in a conflict to collaborate, innovate, and build better businesses.
Renée is a speaker, trainer, coach and consultant.