In our ever complex, changeable and demanding the world – leaders who aren’t able to continuously cope with and adapt to this environment are likely to find it harder to succeed.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is increasingly being held up as vital to navigating this ever-changing landscape. And a cornerstone of EQ is self-awareness. While there is evidence of a link between self-awareness and overall leadership the relationship is complex.
Self awareness involves reflecting the degree to which we are in touch with our physiology, feelings and intuitions. Understanding our personality and the impact that has on both ourselves and others. It’s also about recognising how these feelings affect our performance, the extent to which we recognise our own strengths and weaknesses and how aware we are of our impact on other people. As leaders become more attuned to these areas, they’re more able to change their behaviour in the moment and optimise their effectiveness.
Self-awareness is both an inner awareness and an awareness of how we show up, and do we do so in a way that enables others to show up? Also, as self-awareness can be nurtured and enhanced, it is a sort of process rather than a fixed state.
In recent research involving nearly 5000 participants, most people believed they were self-aware. Only 10-15% of the sample though actually fit the criteria. The study also found that experience and power can hinder self-awareness. The more powerful the leader, the more likely they were to overestimate their skills and abilities. And the less comfortable people felt giving them constructive feedback. We have all met a few of those I am sure.
In my experience of working with many different senior leaders, I have noticed a subconscious “everyone around me needs to change” effect when interactions aren’t working or styles are clashing. Coaching and using psychometric tools (such as the MBTI® assessment) can help them better understand their style and the potential gap between how they see themselves and how others might experience them.
For those able to improve external self-awareness (understanding how others view us), they can do so by gathering feedback from people who have their best interests in mind and are willing to tell them the truth.
They also found that the kinds of questions individuals were asking themselves when introspecting affected levels of self-awareness. Asking “why” questions (Why did I get a poor score?) tended to create unproductive negative thoughts. However, asking “what” questions (What specifically did I do that could have contributed to that score?”) helped people stay objective and able to learn from the experience and move to solutions.
This is similar to the fixed vs growth mindset. When people have a Fixed Mindset they tend to view basic qualities and attributes (such as intelligence or abilities) as being fixed and finite. Those adopting a Growth Mindset tend to believe that we can grow, our abilities can be developed through hard work and perseverance. It’s the difference in “I can’t do that” versus “I can’t do that yet”.
A Growth Mindset also brings with it an empowering and liberating approach to failure and errors. Within a Growth Mindset, mistakes and failures are embraced as an opportunity to learn, grow and improve. Failures are not viewed as negative nor as a threat to the individual’s sense of self..
Think of the power of this if leaders can not only adopt this attitude to mistakes and failures in service of their own learning and growth but create this culture in their team. Look out for the next post on how self-awareness can help build trust in teams.
Top tips for building self-awareness:
- Ask for feedback from those who care and who can also be critical and honest
- Seek out mentorship and support from different people, relating to areas where you want to grow
- Take context into account and notice patterns
- Reflect (often!) by asking what rather than why questions
- Reframe “I can’t do that” to “I can’t do that yet”
- Remember that self-awareness is not a finite attribute but an ongoing process
Remember as Ernest Hemingway said, “you can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another”.
So: “Practice self-awareness, self-evaluation, and self-improvement. If we are aware that our manners – language, behaviour, and actions – are measured against our values and principles, we are able to more easily embody the philosophy: leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do”. (Frances Hesselbein)
Through my coaching programmes I take you personally, and your teams on a journey of discovery and self awareness, and awareness of others. this helps us become better people, better leaders, better team members and generally happier and more positive in what we do. It is the most rewarding part of my job. Watching my clients literally change before my eyes into confident, happier and more focused and motivated people. I am so lucky.
If you want to know more please feel free to get in touch