Three Tips to Improve Your Self-Awareness and Become a Better Leader
It is often stated that before we can successfully lead others, we must learn how to lead ourselves.
Leading yourself well means having a clear sense of your strengths and opportunities. It means spending time getting clarity on your internal values and motivations while also looking externally at how you impact others. When you lead yourself well during challenging times, you show up with integrity and coach yourself through the challenges. It also means you hold yourself accountable and follow through on your commitments.
So, what can help us lead ourselves well? How can we get better at leading ourselves so that we can —in turn — lead others more effectively? I want to share three tips with you. But first, let’s briefly dive into self-awareness as a skill…
Self-awareness as a skill
One of the skills that sits at the foundation of being able to lead ourselves is self-awareness.
Self-awareness is the ability to see ourselves clearly: to understand who we are, how others see us and the impact we have on the world around us. And when we see ourselves clearly, we’re better able to lead ourselves.
Increasing self-awareness reduces our blind spots. Just like when we drive a car, a blind spot is an area that we have trouble seeing. We all have them and all know they can be dangerous.
So consider: When you’re driving on the freeway, what do you do to eliminate or reduce your blind spots? You might re-position your side mirrors, glance around at traffic or even ask someone else in your car if it’s safe to change lanes. While they work in a car, these techniques in a sense work for leaders who want to reduce their personal blind spots as well.
Let me explain.
Without self-awareness, we don’t have an accurate view of our strengths and weaknesses, and we don’t know how we impact those around us. With greater self-awareness, we have a more accurate picture of ourselves, we can recognize some of our biases and we know where to focus our efforts for development.
Just like in a car, you can re-position, get a look around and ask others. We’ll take it further. Keep reading.
The good news is that self-awareness is a skill that can be improved. Now it’s time to dive into those three tips…
Three tips to improve your self-awareness
- Remain curious.
Admitting that you have more to learn about yourself is a great first step in improving your self-awareness. In its broadest definition, curiosity is about having a strong desire to know or learn something. If we stop seeking to learn, our knowledge becomes obsolete. Curiosity fills in our blind spots and improves our self-awareness. In this way, the power of curiosity comes from its ability to help us learn and grow; this is especially important in areas where we already think we know a lot.
- Ask for feedback.
One of the ways to get clearer on your strengths and weaknesses is to ask others for their feedback. Organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich recommends asking for feedback from your “loving critics”: those who will be honest while still having your best interests at heart. These conversations are best approached with humility and vulnerability, letting the other person know that you value their feedback because it will help you gain a more accurate picture of yourself. Hearing others describe your strengths and weaknesses can help you better understand the impact you are having on others.
In order to effectively digest and apply the insights you have about yourself, it’s necessary to take the time to reflect on them. Reflection can take different forms. For some people, their reflection happens as part of a regular journaling practice: writing down the things they’ve learned about themselves, feedback they’ve gotten from colleagues and patterns in their own behavior that they’ve noticed. Other leaders reflect more effectively with a partner: discussing their insights and bouncing ideas around out loud. Whatever approach you take, making the time for reflection helps to ensure that you will apply your insights as you learn about yourself.
Steps you take to improve your self-awareness will help you lead yourself more effectively. As you better understand your strengths and opportunities, you’ll have a more accurate picture of yourself and of the impact you have on others.
This will help you become an even better leader: for yourself and ultimately for others whom you lead.
- Bennis, W. (1989) On Becoming a Leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.
- Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: The surprising truth about how others see us, how we see ourselves, and why the answers matter more than we think. New York: Currency Books.
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