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Self Awareness – the key to Authentic Leadership

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We are more effective in life when we exhibit high levels of self-awareness. Self-awareness, a critical component of emotional and spiritual intelligence (EQ and SQ), is the building block for success in life. It enables us to make insightful and sharper decisions and “course correct” as we go. In addition, it facilitates improved, authentic relationship within and with others – our boss, colleagues, team members, clients, suppliers, family and friends.

So how do we harness and develop this core competency in business and our personal lives?

Here are five things which will lead to increased self awareness:

  1. Become aware and mindful of how you are feeling in the moment.
  2. Try naming these emotions and feelings.
  3. Notice when your feelings and mood change – say if you find yourself getting upset or excited.
  4. Ask yourself why this might be the case.
  5. Become conscious of the impact of your feelings and emotions on your thoughts and consequent behaviour.

The role of feedback

Being open to feedback and reflecting on our experiences are two other significant ways of increasing our self-awareness. Our so-called failures can also provide fertile ground for increased self-awareness and learning.

In business settings, self-awareness can be fast-tracked through the management and leadership development courses and executive coaching. A key component to any learning and development programme is self-assessment along with 360-degree feedback from one’s colleagues, direct reports, and manager. In some instances, suppliers and customers can also be part of this process.

When it comes to feedback, there are broadly four windows to self and other awareness: (Joharis window)

  1. What we know about ourselves and others do too
  2. What we know about ourselves but others don’t
  3. What we don’t know about ourselves and others don’t as well
  4. What others know about us but we don’t

Feedback and leadership effectiveness

In the fourth category, feedback, if listened to and taken on board, can significantly impact one’s management or leadership style. If you are getting feedback about some aspect of your leadership style that you may have filtered out, than now is the time to take notice. Changing your thinking and behavior may take some time and commitment, but the rewards will be well worth it.

The results in the form of greater productivity, improved team and business relationships and positive feedback from those in your immediate environment can be not only rewarding but also humbling.

This was the case of a senior manager I was coaching who had been branded as someone with a confrontational and aggressive style. Though initially questioning ( of course!) the results of his feedback, he was able to take this feedback on board as he realized that his attitude and behaviour were not serving him at all (not to mention others!).

Over a period of twelve months involving conscious awareness of his mindset and behaviour, reflection and feedback, he changed his leadership style to a much more constructive one. However, the biggest win was that he managed to sidestep career derailment at a critical time in his career.

Three steps to increase your leadership effectiveness:

  1. Ask for feedback.
    You may wish to ask 5-6 people for a key strength and one thing you could do better to achieve your specified goals.
  2. Listen to this feedback.
    No, I mean, really listen! More often than not, there will be a theme from your feedback providers. Listen with an open mind and open heart.
  3. Take action
    Decide what one thing you are going to focus on and enjoy growing in your awareness and wisdom.