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Why leaders need to expand self-awareness for a more pleasant experience at work

There are times when situations at work can cause you to, as they say, “lose your religion”. Times when you responded in ways that, in hindsight you later regretted. If you took time to reflect, you knew it wasn’t your best work. And as a leader, you know you must do better next time. That’s what being a self-aware leader looks like. When leaders develop self-awareness, they have a heightened sense of mindfulness that allows them to be aware of their words, actions and behaviors, and its impact on others.

Here’s what the data says. While ninety-five percent of people believe they’re self-aware, in reality, just ten to fifteen percent actually are, according to a five-year research project by an organizational psychologist (HRB.ORG). Data also showed ninety-nine percent of employees reported working with at least one person they’d describe as un-self-aware. These people were most often peers, followed by direct reports, bosses and clients. These are the people who make work an unpleasant experience for themselves and others. People who lack self-awareness not only contribute to workplace stress, but they also cut a team’s odds of success in half. Is that person you? Here's your first test for practicing self-awareness. While you you may not be as bad as what was described, now is the time to take a step back and reflect.

Maybe you showed up less than ideal because you were in a bad mood, tired or stressed from a work or home situation. Maybe it happened because you were frustrated by a team member who consistently lacks accountability and brings down the team’s progress. Or maybe it happened because you have not dealt with some personal blind spots that are hindering your performance and the way you interact with others. The bottom line is that leaders are human. Leaders have emotions. Leaders have feelings. But leaders must also be mindful of how their behavior impacts their team, stakeholders, customers and anyone else they rely on to grow their business or deliver outcomes. When leaders learn to close the gap on how they intend to communicate and how they actually communicate, they mitigate the risks of damaging the momentum of a great team and jeopardizing the growth of a team on a path of recovery.

For example, a leader in a bad mood with no self-awareness, makes bad and biased choices that can be difficult to recover from. On the other hand, a leader in a bad mood with heightened and expanded self-awareness has the skills to realize their mood, step back and make choices to isolate negative feelings so that they can refocus and deliver the leadership needed to be successful.

Being self-aware gives leaders power. They have the power to meet goals, motivate, inspire and create a fair and inclusive culture because they know the value of continuously improving their self-awareness. Self-aware leaders also know there’s power in listening, effectively communicating and supporting their team. And most importantly, leaders who are self-aware are confident enough to recognize when they need help and seek it. Here are three questions you can ask yourself when you feel the urge to abruptly react instead of responsibly respond. Use these reflective questions to help you take the best next step.

  1. Does this need to be said?

  2. Does it need to be said by me?

  3. Does it need to be said by me right now?

Leaders who develop high self-awareness develop leadership strength in five core areas:

  1. Self-Awareness/Understanding: They are aware of their feelings and emotional patterns and how they are associated with perceptions of themselves and in the context of various situations.

  2. Connections of Cause and Effect: The know how to filter out feelings and behaviors that are not productive to achieving goals and optimizing performance.

  3. Self-appreciation, Acceptance and Confidence: They develop self-esteem by recognizing personal strengths, weaknesses and limitations and then operating within realistic self-assurance to build confidence. They know how to strike a balance and not be overconfident or complacent.

  4. Consciousness and Assertiveness: They establish intentional personal boundaries, take responsibility for choices and express self-worth through personal care and public presence.

  5. Emotional Identification: They have a grasp on what they’re feeling and why, and use that information to expand intrapersonal development skills to open pathways to creativity and new levels of self-actualization.

Have compassion for yourself. Leadership takes practice and practice makes progress. If you want to develop leadership self-awareness and create a better experience for yourself and others at work, integrate the three reflective questions into your day and the tips in my free guide, 38 Ways to Improve Emotional Intelligence for Leaders, Managers and Supervisors. Click HERE for the link.

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