The best leaders are self-aware. Are you?
Most of us tend to over-estimate how self-aware we actually are. In the same way 80% of drivers think of themselves as above average, 95% of people say they are self-aware. Yet, according to a five-year research program, only 10% to 15% of people are considered self-aware.
When it comes to leaders and self-awareness, some research suggests that the higher you ascend, the less self-aware you become. This means it’s very important to monitor how self-aware you are as you progress throughout your career.
How do you know whether you or someone you know is self-aware? Here are the consistent behaviors of people who are not self-aware:
- They won’t listen to, or accept, critical feedback.
- They cannot empathize with, or take the perspective of, others.
- They have difficulty “reading a room” and tailoring their message to their audience.
- They possess an inflated opinion of their contributions and performance.
- They are hurtful to others without realizing it.
- They take credit for successes and blame others for failures.
Self-awareness means you have a sound understanding of who you are as a person and how you relate to the world in which you live. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and you know how to manage them in the workplace. You can manage your emotions, and the more you pay attention to them, the better you understand why you do the things the way you do. This is critical to self-leadership.
According to organizational psychologist and executive coach Dr. Tasha Eurich, research has found that when we are able to see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and creative, able to make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. All of which are important to effective leadership.
Of course, most of us are not entirely self-aware or unself-aware, but somewhere in the middle. This means we are likely to be more developed internally or externally. To find out, you can take a self-awareness Insight Quiz here.
Internal and External Self-Awareness
Eurich separates self-awareness into two broad categories: internal and external. Internal self-awareness is how clear we can see our values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment and reactions—including our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses. It also represents the impact we have on others. This internal perspective is associated with higher satisfaction in both our relationships, on the job and overall happiness.
External self-awareness is how other people view us in terms of those same factors. Research shows that people who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives. When leaders are able see themselves as their employees do, the employees tend to have a better relationship with them, feel more satisfied with them, and see them as more effective in general.
Eurich’s research reveals that there is basically no relationship between internal and external self-awareness—just because you may be high on one doesn’t mean you will be high on the other. Developing both your internal and external self-awareness are equally important.
Increasing your self-awareness requires that you accurately see yourself for who you are, and this requires breaking through preconceived notions of what may be your aspirational self to reveal your imperfect self. It means identifying what you see and accepting it. With this knowledge and acceptance then comes the ability to leverage it and propel your leadership growth.
Seeing ourselves for who we really are requires humility and vulnerability. Accepting what we see and choosing to increase our self-awareness takes courage and discipline. And the effort will pay off as you increase your overall leadership capacity.