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.
Leaders who are lacking self-awareness are likely feeling out of balance because their inner lives and outer lives are not congruent. They may be reacting to life and problems rather than creating life as an expression of what matters most. Without self-awareness, leaders typically define themselves in terms of expectations of others. These leaders find themselves playing unfulfilling roles in life and work rather than acting from their authentic center. Without self-awareness, it is hard to know when your emotions are hijacking your judgment, difficult to get an accurate sense of how your words and behavior are impacting others, and almost impossible to identify what you need to further develop as a leader.
Becoming a high-performing leader requires self-awareness. Here are 10 guiding principles for follow:
- Commit to personal and professional development and seek out allies such as mentors, teachers, and coaches.
- Embark on a journey of self-discovery through assessments such as the CliftonStrengths® (formerly known as StrengthsFinder®), the DiSC® Profile, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or the Leadership Circle Profile ™.
- Request honest and candid feedback from a trusted advisor. Ask these questions: What do you see as my strengths? What is the general perception of me? What might be a blind spot for me? What do I need to work on to become a more effective leader?
- Take time for self-reflection. This requires getting still and quiet. Ask yourself –Was my impact as a leader today positive, negative, or neutral?
- Stop blaming others and expecting them to do most of the changing.
- Get connected to your life’s purpose and begin to live it – even in small ways.
- Identify your core values and create opportunities to express them daily.
- Own your weaknesses and mistakes and commit to improving.
- Surround yourself with people who have good intentions and sincerely want to help you be successful.
- Stay curious and notice when there is a need to change your personal or managerial behavior.
Self-awareness gives leaders many more choices in how they work and how they live. Self-awareness provides the freedom to make a conscious choice about how you relate with others, the choice to identify your strengths and weaknesses and gracefully make improvements, and the choice to lead authentically by aligning your core values with your leadership style.
Grow with purpose.
Emily Rogers is an executive coach, business consultant and retreat facilitator. She strategically advises and supports organizations and individuals in growing and realizing their full potential in purposeful and balanced ways. You can connect with her at www.emilyrogers.com.