Do you know exactly what it means to be self-aware? Here are some ways to develop awareness as a leader

Self-awareness and how to improve it as a leader

A lot is said about self-awareness, and the impact it has towards the success of individuals as well as organizations. In this article we will explore what it means, and look at ways to develop more of it.

Successful organizations have certain things in common.

They clearly understand their strengths and areas of weakness, and it is true that they tend to become more cohesive and efficient because they’re self-aware, not only as entire entities or teams, but starting at the individual level.

Leaders who practice self-awareness set themselves up to become better managers, strategists, and teammates. Just as it helps to understand the behavioral patterns of those you work with, recognizing your own tendencies and stretches is critical. When you see behaviors that you manifest, you can check those habits before you become reliant on them.

Keep in mind that increasing self-awareness is also a matter of professional development. You can view it on the same priority tier as attending workshops, reading books by industry leaders, or other forms of up-skilling.

It’s a practice that should be at the forefront of your leadership development.

Let’s walk through what that looks like on a few levels, so you can identify potential gaps in your self-awareness. By doing this, you’ll know which areas to focus your improvement efforts on.

Self-awareness in knowing yourself

Do you have a clear understanding of your emotions, and how you react to difficult situations? Do you understand the “triggers” and “stressors” in your life and have a plan for processing stress and disappointment? Stay curious and try to take regular steps to learn more about yourself. When you receive criticism, ask: “How can I learn from this experience?”

The more often you can apply this sort of introspective approach to your professional life, the more it will benefit your leadership—and your team.

Self-awareness in working with others

To effectively lead a team, you need to have a clear understanding of the emotions of the people around you, and how these people react in different environments. Think about the different behavioural styles of the people on your team, and how they might manifest. Consider how these people might respond to crisis. What are their strongest drives or tendencies? And how do they lean on these drives or tendencies?

Try to tailor the way you provide feedback to others based on their innate behavioral drives and needs. Likewise, regularly ask others to give you feedback about your actions, communication, and management style.

Self-awareness in communication

Try to be aware of the non-verbal cues (e.g., body language) you give. This can be complicated by remote work and video conferencing, but if you’re aware of your own tone of voice when you’re speaking to others in the workplace, that’s generally a good start.

Try to defer judgment and allow others to finish their thoughts before responding. Practice active listening when interacting with others. And depending on the group you’re communicating with, it may sometimes help to speak last. As a leader, your opinions may be weighed more heavily, and you don’t want to inadvertently sway others or dissuade them from speaking after you.

Self-awareness tools and processes

Use behavioral assessments and other self-awareness tools to identify your innate strengths, as well as areas for improvement. Leverage behavioral data to understand the best ways to motivate and manage direct reports.

Where possible, consider completing 360-degree reviews (if you work with teams) in the interest of gathering honest feedback from peers, direct reports and managers alike. And when you make key decisions, try to write down what you expect will happen. Then, six, nine, or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations.

Self-awareness is a constant, ongoing practice. But by asking these questions of yourself, you’ll actively hold yourself accountable to the pursuit every day.

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