I’ve written before about why the discipline of self awareness is critical for great leadership.
We talked about how becoming more self aware can:
- reveal our limits, making it easier to determine how we spend our time
- help us make better decisions
- increase our influence
- help us reach our true potential
I didn’t explicitly mention this in the post, but our pursuit of self awareness will also benefit our team’s development. If they see us trying to improve ourselves both personally and professionally they’ll be more inclined to do the same. Monkey see, monkey do, right?
Increasing our self awareness is a lifelong pursuit and results won’t happen over night. It’s not complicated, but it requires desire and effort. Here are some tangible ways to begin the process of becoming more self aware.
1. Revisit your core values often
When we know what core principles we stand for we make better, more consistent decisions. These principles act as the navigational beacons or lighthouses of our lives. We should revisit them as often as possible to make sure we’re becoming the leaders we want to become.
You’ll need to determine what works best for you but, as a follower of Jesus, I often read the Bible to ground myself. My Leadership Development Plan also includes my core values and I refer to it regularly. I also get inspired by other people. I try to adopt character traits I observe in people I respect and look up to.
2. Listen to your spouse
Your spouse is probably the best source of information about who you are. He or she has likely seen you at your best and worst more than anyone else. If your spouse says you can be generous and funny, but occasionally controlling and impatient, chances are these same things pop up in other areas of your life. Even if you’re not married, a significant other can provide similar, valuable feedback.
My wife is my number one fan and encourages me daily, but she also tells me when I mess up. Instead of getting defensive and somehow blaming it on her, I try to listen and learn from it.
3. Develop an inner circle
It’s important for every person to have three to five really close friends. I’m not talking about acquaintances that you enjoying hanging out with from time to time. I mean people who have your back. People who will be completely honest with you when you ask for feedback. People who you can call at 2am for anything.
I have three or four guys whom I can call whenever I need a reality check. I can ask them if I’m being unreasonable or not and they’ll tell me. These same guys have also supported me and my crazy ideas more than once.
4. Look in the mirrors around you
Seeing these cues isn’t hard, it just requires a little conscious effort. Watch for people’s facial expressions and body language when you enter a room. Listen to the tone of people’s voices or if they sigh when you say something. Do people seem genuinely happy to be around you or are they hiding their true feelings?
This one can be tough if you don’t want to know how others perceive you. I’m not saying people should like us all the time or that we should even give into these cues. But we should be aware of them and make adjustments based on those that are valid.
5. Work with a formal mentor, coach or counselor
One of the best ways to invest in your leadership development is to work with a formal mentor. This can be a professionally paid coach or simply someone with a little more experience whom you trust and respect.
As leaders who want to be more self aware, we must be open to outside help. Sometimes a neutral third party will see things that we and those closest to us can’t. We owe it to ourselves and those whom we lead to get help if we need it. The best leaders have the self awareness to know they can’t always go it alone.
We can all become more self aware so we can grow into the leaders we’re meant to be. Of course, it starts with the belief that it’s important to do so and the confidence that you can do it. Once you’ve decided you can, the five steps above can help you get there.
Question: What other ways can we become more self aware? How can we invest in ourselves so we’re better equipped to lead others?