When you think of the qualities needed to become an effective leader, you might go for expertise, ambition and interpersonal skills. We know that making it to the top of the career ladder requires a combination of application, talent and drive, with a dose of luck too!
But there is one overlooked leadership quality that is a strong predictor of success. That is self-awareness. So why is this attribute so important? To maximise your potential, you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and how you not only perceive yourself but are perceived by others.
The definition of the word means having an awareness of one’s own personality and character traits. But it goes much deeper than that. The best leaders are known for their ability to not only be honest about themselves but they actively seek feedback, support and mentoring opportunities from their peers. If for example you’ve been told that you come across as impersonal or aloof, then ensure you take some time to speak to frontline staff when visiting different offices.
Self-awareness requires humility, which is another critical leadership quality. It’s very easy for senior executives to fall into the trap of thinking they may know it all – after all, why should anyone question them given their standing in the organisation? But that shouldn’t mean resting on your laurels. The best leaders strive to continually improve and make a positive impact around them – they see it as a responsibility which comes with the role.
Period of reflection
The best leaders surround themselves with people they know have a better skill set in certain areas than they do. This makes them adept at building teams with individuals who complement each other. They are not afraid to acknowledge their weaknesses, they are comfortable to seek counsel. It is self-awareness that leads them to make decisions that are in the best interests of the company.
Linked to self-awareness is self-reflection – the ability to look back on results to see what you might have done differently. As Peter Drucker said, “Whenever you make a decision or take a key decision, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the results with what you expected.” What was it that made you take the wrong path? Did you weigh up the potential pitfalls thoroughly? Or was that the only path you could have taken given the information provided.
How self-aware are you?
Self-awareness is one of the least visible emotions – it’s hard to measure. To better understand how you might fare in the self-awareness stakes, there are of course a myriad of assessment tests that you can take. Or you can opt for a leadership coaching. Better still, listen to what others have to say and empathise with their particular points of view.
It’s all part of learning about yourself, a desire to better understand strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately make better personal and business decisions. Self-awareness is widely recognised as one of the most important attributes that will help leaders become more effective and productive.
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