Self-awareness is among the top leadership skills required from future leaders, according to Blanchard’s 2023 Trends Report. Yet the lack of it is one of the biggest challenges leaders face as they step into increasingly higher management roles. Not only is self-awareness a prerequisite for effective leadership, it’s also essential for effective human interaction of any kind.
The best leaders have a high degree of self-awareness. These leaders understand themselves and their needs, strengths, weaknesses, and temperament. They are aware of their thoughts, feelings, and personal motivators. They know how their behavior affects people around them and how to model trusting servant leadership for their team.
Self-aware leaders have a special kind of perspective on leadership. Being grounded in knowledge about themselves helps them be more mindful of the people, experiences, and values that have made them who they are—as both a person and a leader.
How’s Your Ego?
Leaders who lack self-awareness often have egos that they allow to go unchecked, which slowly but surely erodes their ability to lead. These leaders see themselves as the center of the universe. They put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of the people they lead—the people most likely to be affected by the leader’s misguided thoughts and actions.
As a leader, if your self-worth is tied up in your achievements and what others think of you, it becomes increasingly difficult for you to maintain a healthy self-image. Why? Because your performance—like everyone’s—varies from day to day, and human judgment is fickle. So your self-worth is up for grabs on a daily basis. It’s easy to get caught between false pride and fear—two ways the human ego can be an obstacle to success.
- Leaders with false pride are generally seen as controlling. They have a high need for power even when they don’t know what they are doing. They insist they are right even when it’s clear to everyone else that they are wrong.
- Leaders driven by fear are generally characterized as do-nothing bosses. Their fear of making a mistake and other insecurities keep them from taking action when they should. They are seldom around—and when they are, they avoid conflict and aren’t very helpful.
A lack of self-awareness combined with an overactive ego can topple an otherwise great leader. Don’t let your ego keep you from being your best self or bringing out the best in others.
Can You Be Trusted as a Leader?
Effective leadership starts on the inside. To be a truly trustworthy leader, you must first possess a strong sense of self-awareness by knowing yourself and what you need to be successful.
To help you increase your self-awareness as a leader, we’ve developed an assessment leaders can use to gauge their trustworthiness in the four elements of trust found in our ABCD model:
- Able: Do you demonstrate competence in your role?
- Believable: Do you demonstrate how to act with integrity?
- Connected: Do you demonstrate that you care about others?
- Dependable: Do you demonstrate reliability?
To gain even more self-awareness, we encourage you to have each of your team members fill out the same assessment, rating you on your trustworthiness. Not every leader is vulnerable enough to ask their people to assess them as a trustworthy leader—but I’ve done it, and I found it to be a humbling, yet enlightening experience!
Important note: make sure you are ready for what you may learn. When you invite people to discuss these potentially sensitive areas, you must be ready to listen. Remember that feedback is a gift. There are only two things a leader should say when they receive feedback—either “Thank you” or “Tell me more.”
Don’t worry—it’s never a bad thing to learn something new about yourself as a leader. Take a tip from the One Minute Manager: If you find out you are doing something right, give yourself a One Minute Praising. And if you discover you are off track in an area, give yourself a One Minute Redirect and get back on the right track.
The more self-aware you are, the better you will be able to serve, care for, and lead your people, which builds trust—and awareness—in every direction. Being self-aware, keeping your ego in check, and learning how to be more trustworthy are all parts of leading at a higher level.