Are leaders born or made? I believe we are all born with innate strengths and styles. I also believe that leaders are made when they consciously put those innate strengths and styles to good use and mitigate weakness by surrounding themselves with people that bring needed balancing qualities to their teams. I believe great leaders emerge when leaders empower those around them to use those balancing qualities to create truly innovative results. The ability to humbly acknowledge your own strengths and recognizing your limitations while actively seeking out others who complement your weaknesses requires a high degree of self-awareness.
Self-awareness entails knowing the areas in which you excel and where you don’t, where you need help, and what kind of situations are more difficult for you. Leaders who are self-aware actively pursue and value personal and professional development, have a developed sense of purpose, act from their internal center, and consciously express their core values. By forming teams that have a diversity of excellence and creating a climate where speaking your truth is encouraged, self-aware leaders receive reliable feedback about how they are doing and a clear understanding of how others perceive them.
Self-aware leaders are not perfect. They know it, accept it and have made peace with their imperfections. Perhaps more important, they are less likely to deny the weak and undeveloped parts of themselves. They accept that these aspects exist, admit it when they make a mistake or hurt others, and use these experiences to grow and improve. They are also less defensive when criticized by others and embrace the idea that someone else may have a better solution. This cultivates an organizational culture that allows a leader to engage honestly and compassionately with their team.
Self-aware leaders are not defined by their own success or intimidated by the success of others. This allows them to create teams of highly capable people, empower those teams, and celebrate their achievements. Korn Ferry Hay Group research found that among leaders with multiple strengths in Emotional Self-Awareness, 92% had teams with high energy and high performance. Self-aware leaders create a positive emotional climate that encourages motivation and initiative. In sharp contrast, leaders low in Emotional Self-Awareness created negative climates 78% of the time.