Developing Leaders Who Are Self-Aware
The need for leaders to be self-aware is perhaps self evident. At the most basic level, understanding their weaknesses and strengths enables leaders the best chance of leveraging their own abilities. At a more sophisticated level, understanding the habitual patterns of perception and interpretation they use can enable leaders to be alert to the prejudices and biases which can impair their effectiveness.
Self-awareness, or self-insight, is an oft cited capacity of effective leaders. London and Maurer, for instance, suggest that:
“Leaders need self-awareness to know what’s happening with their own emotions, maintain a positive state, keep distressing emotions out of the way, be empathetic, and prime positive emotions in others” (London and Maurer, 2004: 228)
From this perspective, self-awareness is key to being able to manage oneself and choose behaviours which will encourage certain behaviours from followers, resulting in effective leadership performance. A second factor which points to the importance of self-awareness has to do with the degree of power inherent in the
leadership role. Bulls in china shops can be troublesome, but if a bull wields power over the lives of others, his lack of self awareness can be dangerous. In order to exercise power ethically leaders need to be aware of the effect they have on others, as well as a sense of their conscious and unconscious motives.
Perhaps a paradoxical aspect of self awareness is that it cannot be developed in isolation. In order to be more self-aware, one needs to engage with others. Feedback is a key tool for uncovering that ‘blind spot’ and learning how others perceive and interpret actions, intentions and behaviours. However, by the nature of the leadership role, gaining truthful and constructively critical feedback from followers can be a particular challenge for leaders. Followers are usually astute
enough to know better than to tell the leader what they ‘really think’, (unless what they really think is positive—but this can also have its difficulties, if a follower
does not want to appear sycophantic.)
Here at HPD we have a range of training methods to ensure your leaders are self-aware. All aspects of our training courses maximise your staff ability to lead and achieve as a team. Our mandate is to improve leadership and team cohesion to maximise profit within your organisation.
For more information join us at our free seminar and networking lunch.