Leadership Self-Awareness: How a lack of self-awareness could be hurting your team and what you can do about it

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Now more than ever, being an effective leader is critical to building a strong culture, a high-performing team, and a winning organization.

But what makes a great leader? How about an ineffective or bad leader?

Think back on your career to the great, good and outright bad leaders that you’ve come across. What characteristics did they possess that either made you want to be like them one day or you learned the type of leader you didn’t want to be from their example? A Hogan survey found that 7 out of every 10 leaders are considered poor managers. Let that sink in for a moment.

Seven out of 10.

Hogan goes on to say, the reason for this startling number is a lack of judgement, inability to gain and keep trust, inability to relate to others and inability to learn and grow from mistakes. That means that for every 10 leaders around us, only 3 are considered good managers. Are you one of the 3, or one of the 7? Below are a few questions that will help gauge where you are today on the leadership spectrum. Whether you’re answering these questions for you or whether you are assessing a team member’s leadership, be honest about reality.

  1. How aware are you of your own strengths and areas of opportunity?
  2. Do you lead with your strengths? If so, how?
  3. How often do you leverage the strengths of your team members and those around you?
  4. When making decisions, is your first instinct to operate in your best interests or the interests of your organization?
  5. How do emotions affect your decision-making abilities?

How did you do? Most of us have positive intentions when it comes to leadership; we want to do the right thing and we think we’re doing the right thing because we know what makes a good leader and what makes a bad leader.

The truth is, it’s not enough to simply know the differences between a good and bad leader. You have to go one step further and assess your own actions and behaviors. You have to get uncomfortable. Determining whether you are one of the 3 or one of the 7 requires some soul searching; the ability to take a step back and reflect on your own leadership style to gain an understanding of how your actions and behaviors affect you and those being led by you.

The process of gaining self-awareness starts with your ability to realize there is a gap. We all have areas we can improve upon when it comes to leadership, especially in stressful or uncertain times. Once you recognize this, you can work to gain self-awareness and evolve into the type of leader you admire. So, how can you gain more self-awareness?

Start by recognizing your strengths and weaknesses (or areas or opportunity)

List off your top 5 strengths. This isn’t rhetorical. What are the top 5 things you excel at? For many of us, answering this question isn’t too difficult. We know the things we are good at and we’re comfortable answering the question. Now, list the top 5 areas where you can improve or need guidance? While answering that question silently may be okay, telling others our weaknesses or growth areas is often difficult. It’s uncomfortable.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses, with some affecting our daily lives more than others and some we may not even recognize, but one truth remains: it’s impossible to make self-improvements if we’re unable to recognize the areas within ourselves that may need the most help. Good leaders lead with their strengths while also (and just as importantly) understand their vulnerabilities without letting them get in the way.

Pro Tip: There are many assessments on the market that can assist in helping you uncover your strengths as well as areas of opportunity. Start by taking one of these assessments, such as CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder), to better understand where you excel. When reviewing your areas of opportunity on the assessment, be sure to think about who you may know that excels at those areas. They can serve as an informal mentor in helping you build leadership muscle in those particular areas.

Next, surround yourself with people whose strengths can help offset your weaknesses.

The best leaders are always learning and growing. One way they do this is by surrounding themselves with people who are smarter and whose strengths may be their own areas of opportunity. This is a great way to continue learning – by observing people whose strengths are different than your own. However, it’s not enough to simply surround yourself with these people. You also need to leverage their strengths when making decisions.

Being in a leadership position means someone is always watching, taking cues from you, and analyzing your actions and behaviors. Everyone knows the saying, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Although this statement is true, being a powerful leader doesn’t mean reminding others of the position you hold or your title. Being a powerful leader means that your actions and words are aligned, decisions are made based on what is best for the organization or team.

Self-aware leaders know they need to tap into the collective knowledge to make the best decisions, and this is where leveraging the strengths of those around you comes into play. Ask others what they are thinking, what unintended consequences a decision may have and what potential solutions they have for solving a problem. In addition to ensuring you are doing right by your team and organization, asking others builds trust, which is key for any successful self-aware leader.

Pro Tip: If you aren’t sure whether you are leveraging other people’s strengths, ask for feedback. Ask those around you, whether peers or those you lead, whether they feel they have a voice when it comes to important decisions that affect the team and organization. In addition to knowing strengths and areas of opportunity, asking for feedback provides valuable data points to help you determine how inclusive you are and whether you really are leveraging other people’s strengths or if you only think you are – your intent versus your impact.

Finally, gain perspective.

There are a various external factors that make us who we are based on our experiences and backgrounds, however it’s important to note that who we are isn’t permanent; we can absolutely change. It is our job to decide who we want to become. One of the most important qualities of a self-aware leader is their ability to listen and understand in order to gain perspective. Take feedback, as mentioned above. While it may not always be comfortable to receive it, taking the steps to encourage feedback, accept it and act accordingly is a great way to promote continuous learning and improvement and to gain perspective.

Additionally, the act of going to the balcony is also beneficial. If you were watching your actions and behaviors from a balcony unfold on a stage, how would you react? Would you be happy with what you were seeing? Would you be the type of leader you would want to follow? This simple act provides the perspective of what other’s may see when witnessing our actions. While we may not always like what we see, we have the ability to change it. The bottom line is that no one is perfect, but staying curious, gaining perspective, and seeking out ways to continuously improve are fantastic ways to pave the road to success.

Pro Tip: Oftentimes, in order to really gain perspective and self-awareness we need to partner with an external coach. A leadership coach listens, acts as a guide by asking powerful questions and helps us unlock our true leadership. This external perspective is helpful because it provides a neutral third-party view into our leadership and behavior. The key to truly seeing change is finding a coach that you connect with and who will push you to think differently in order to grow.

In summary, self-aware leaders understand who they are and how their actions have impacts on their team members. More importantly, they want to make changes for the betterment of themselves, their team and their organization. Gaining self-awareness is a journey. Go back to the questions above frequently to help assess where you are on the self-awareness spectrum.

If you’re interested in evolving your leadership, gaining self-awareness, uncovering your strengths/areas of opportunity, or partnering with a coach to help take you to the next level, we want to help. At Gig Talent, our top-notch leadership coaches and consultants have the ability to help you gain perspective while pushing you to achieve greater success. Email us today to find out how we can help – info@gogigtalent.com.