Do you want to lead? Be yourself and know yourself.
Dave Taylor, CEO, LDR Leadership
Self-awareness involves being aware of different aspects of the self, including traits, behaviors, and feelings. Self-awareness is the key to realizing one’s strengths and weaknesses.
“I don’t try to be anything else other than who I am. I don’t know what a commander (referring to a leadership position in the military) is “supposed” to be like; I only know who I am, and I try to be me.” A typical response I gave when asked about being a leader when serving in the military.
As a leader, continuous learning and education taught me that I did not know what I could not explain because I was attempting to be self-aware. I say “attempting” because at that time in my life, while I was “me,” I did not know who I was until later in life, nor could I accurately describe it. Understanding what self-awareness meant led me to understand better.
Daniel Goleman wrote about the Emotional Intelligence (EI) based theory of performance in his book “The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace.” He wrote about a framework of emotional competencies, including self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. Within the self-awareness cluster are three key components that resonated with me.
Emotional Self-Awareness: the importance of recognizing one’s feelings and how they affect one’s performance.
Accurate Self-Assessment: during research, this was determined to be the hallmark of superior performance. Accurate self-assessment is the ability to know and understand one’s strengths and limitations, and more importantly, seek ways to learn and improve on those limitations and work with those who have complementary strengths. Imagine if we were all genuinely comfortable acknowledging our limitations and finding those with strengths to compliment us on how far we as a team could go. A 1998 study demonstrated that all those found to be “star performers” had an accurate self-assessment (Kelly, 1998).
Self-Confidence: a high degree of Self-Confidence distinguishes the best from the average performers (Boyatzis, 1982). What is important here is knowing the difference between confidence and arrogance.
Personal experience and research demonstrate the critical role that emotional competence plays in individual and team/organizational success. There is nothing more powerful.
True North: Given that the research is clear of the impacts, leaders should not only seek to understand themselves better, but we should also seek to help our teams reach the same level of awareness. Everyone wins!