There is no end to the list of qualities that help to create a better leader. Effective leadership requires far more than just management skills and expertise. It requires a high level of self-awareness, the ability to understand one’s own thoughts, emotions, and actions. Self-awareness allows leaders to be in tune with their strengths and weaknesses, to recognize and manage their emotions, and to communicate effectively with others.

To understand why self awareness is so important to leadership, it’s important to take a step back and define what leadership really is. Leadership is a relationship, and within that relationship, it is actually not you who decides you are a leader, it is your followers that make that decision. There is a strong distinction between a “manager” and a “leader”. Being a manager means you are responsible for a certain area of the business, and therefore responsible for a number of people who work in your organization. But that doesn’t mean you are a leader.

The question of whether or not you are a leader is really determined by your followers. They are either influenced by you and decide to follow you, or they might decide to just comply with what you tell them, or they might decide to not comply at all. This leads to the question: “Why should anyone be led by you?” The answer to that question lies in your unique strengths, how you make sense of the world, and your purpose in this world. You followers know your unique set of strengths, and they also know your weaknesses. You should be self aware enough that you are open about what these weaknesses are and invite people in to compliment your weaknesses. 

Despite the importance of self-awareness in leadership, it is a skill that is often overlooked or undervalued. In fact, a study by the Hay Research Group found that only 19% of female executives and 4% of male executives exhibited self-awareness. This is a concerning statistic, given that executives are at the top of the organizational hierarchy, with significant responsibilities for driving success.

One reason for this lack of self-awareness is that executives often operate in a vacuum, shielded from criticism or feedback. They are surrounded by yes-men and women who are unwilling or afraid to challenge them. As a result, they may become overconfident, arrogant, or detached from reality, leading to poor decision-making and ultimately, their followers stop listening to them. 

To become more self-aware, leaders must be willing to take an honest and introspective look at themselves. This can be a difficult process, as it requires a level of vulnerability and humility that many leaders are uncomfortable with. However, it is essential for growth and development.

Here are some tips for cultivating self-awareness:

  1. Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from colleagues, employees, and other stakeholders. Encourage them to be honest and direct with you, even if it is difficult to hear.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Develop a mindfulness practice, such as meditation, to help you become more present and aware of your thoughts and emotions.
  3. Reflect on your experiences: Set aside time each day to reflect on your experiences and interactions with others. Consider what you learned and how you can improve.
  4. Be open to learning: Be willing to learn from others, including those who may have different perspectives or experiences than you.
  5. Take responsibility: Take responsibility for your actions and decisions. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.

Self-awareness is an essential characteristic for effective leadership. However, it is a skill that requires ongoing development and improvement. Leaders who are willing to be vulnerable, seek feedback, and take responsibility for their actions can cultivate self-awareness and drive success for themselves and their organizations.