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Self-awareness Leads To Better Leadership. Here’s Why.

What is self-awareness...and how do we arrive there?

You can’t lead yourself if you don’t possess self-awareness. And you can’t lead others if you don’t know yourself.

So let’s take some time to evaluate why it’s important, the roadblocks you might experience, and three ways you can achieve it...and enhance your leadership skills.

Defining self-awareness...and why it matters

In general, it means you have a sharp awareness of your own personality…

  • Your strengths

  • Your weaknesses

  • Areas for growth

  • Motivations, goals, dreams

  • Factors that hinder you

In the past decade, it’s become popular to find “life hacks” that give you shortcuts to success. But there really isn’t a shortcut to self-awareness. In fact, studies dating back to the early 2000s have shown that we’re notoriously falling short when it comes to assessing our own abilities.

It’s a deliberate, ongoing pursuit, and it requires patience. But, unfortunately, there isn’t a hack…

What are the roadblocks to self-awareness?

In a professional context, it’s often a factor of how work is structured.

For many, work is about…

  • Tasks

  • Key Performance Indicators

  • Deliverables

  • Putting out fires

  • Rushing projects out the door

Some people thrive in this high-octane environment. But while they’re delivering products or services at this break-neck pace, they’re not afforded time to assess their performance as it relates to growth.

And, let’s be honest. Who wants to dwell on the rough patches in their personal or professional lives when they can remain distracted by deadlines and deliverables?

Self-awareness makes us all uncomfortable. And, understandably, we’re all averse to discomfort.

Many who rise to the leadership ranks lack self-awareness in these execution-focused cultures, and research shows this makes them harder to coach. In turn, it makes them ineffective leaders who fall short when it’s time to motivate and inspire their team.

Imagine the exploration of self-awareness as the sandpaper to your rough edges. Of course, you need some friction to smooth the surface…

Cultivating self-awareness is a deliberate – difficult – choice for leaders

So, how do you cultivate self-awareness?

I don’t have hacks, but I have strategies. And I can assure you; they’re hard.

But it’s important for sustained growth and success – both personally and professionally – that you make the commitment.


1. Ask big questions:

Don’t start small...start big. Ask yourself these three core questions:

  • What’s my story?

  • What’s my passion?

  • What’s my pain?

Define how you see yourself – your story.

Where you want to see yourself – your passion.

What hinders or upsets you – your pain.

This will be scary. You will have to admit some things to yourself that you’ve been avoiding. It will be sandpaper on your brain. But it’s important.

Here’s an example.

I had a client who was in sales.

One year he just wasn’t “feeling it” anymore.

He looked at his quotas. In Q3 of the previous year, he had delivered 7% of the quota. He’d fallen short...

He knew that was awful, and sales wasn’t inspiring him anymore. So he did some serious self-reflection with coaching support.

Now he works teaching art at a local public high school...and he loves it.

Does he make as much money? No. But it’s about his passion, his pain, and his story.

He took control.

2. Flex your curiosity muscles:

Allow your mind to "wonder and wander."

Here’s what I mean.

A friend of mine did an ‘Africa Project' on days she was bored.

She went country-by-country in Africa using all of her research skills and learned as much as she could about that country, including their economy, their culture, their history...

She became extremely well-informed about Africa.

No one had told her to do this. It wasn’t for a class or anything. She just wanted to learn.

At the same time, she was doing this; she advanced three tiers at work.

No, her job had nothing to do with Africa or humanitarian relief. But in part, her expanded curiosity made her naturally better professionally.

She expanded her curiosity beyond her immediate professional goals.

Research tells us that curious professionals who are more comfortable with ambiguity are more successful. And in today’s business climate, that’s a recipe for long-term success.

Remember: millions saw the apple fall. Only Newton asked why.

3. Make an Euler diagram:

You’ve probably heard of Venn Diagrams. The Euler Diagram is an extension of that…

I encourage my clients to do a candid assessment of their talents, demands, and sources of fun.

You’ve heard people tell you that you should “follow your passion”...which is great advice. But if you have two left feet, should you follow your passion and become a dancer? Probably not.

The Euler Diagram encourages you to balance your passion with your talents and then find a way to match your inspiration with your need for financial remuneration.

Until that first brick is laid, you can't build a foundation

You can purchase every leadership book ever written, listen to every management podcast, devour self-help section, get a business coach, or a dozen.

It will help you to some degree.

But until you spend time getting to know yourself, the rest will just ricochet off you…

They’re the building blocks of your foundation as a leader. When your team knows that you know yourself, they’re more likely to follow you. When they commit to your cause, amazing things will happen.

Would you like help building that foundation? We can work together. Contact me, and we’ll get started.

Did you learn about becoming a better leader? Check out these articles:


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