Self-awareness is one of the most essential skills a leader can have. It’s the key element in building strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a sense of purpose, authenticity, openness and trust. It also explains our successes and our failures. By giving us a better understanding of who we are, self-awareness lets us better understand what we need most from other people to complement our leadership shortcomings.
Working on your self-awareness is the first step towards self-improvement. The more you know about yourself, the better you are at adapting to situations at work, and the better you are at decision-making and behavioral responses. Failure to face reality can destroy your career and your company.
Below are five exercise for greater self-awareness, curated by Entrepreneur.
- The three why’s.Before acting on a decision, ask yourself “Why?” Follow up your response with another “Why?” And then a third. If you can find three good reasons to pursue something, you’ll have clarity and be more confident in your actions.Being self-aware means knowing your motives and determining whether they’re reasonable.
- Expand your emotional vocabulary.The philosopher Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”Emotions create powerful physical and behavioral responses that are more complex than “happy” or “sad.” Putting your feelings into words has a therapeutic effect on your brain; if you’re unable to articulate how you feel, that can create stress. Increase your emotional vocabulary with one new word each day.
- Practice saying ‘no’ to yourself.The ability to say “no” to yourself to put off short-term gratification for the long-term gain is an important life-skill. Like a muscle, it is strengthened with exercise. The more you practice saying “no” to small daily challenges, the better you can withstand major temptations.There are plenty of daily temptations — social media, junk food, gossiping, YouTube. Make a goal of saying “no” to five different temptations each day.
- Be accountable to your flaws.Nobody is perfect. Being aware of your flaws, but failing to accept accountability, is leaving the job half-done. We’re often critical of others, while ignorant of our own flaws. Self-awareness helps turn the mirror on ourselves and prevents hypocritical behavior.Iteration and self-improvement only happens once you recognize a flaw. Create a habit of acknowledging your mistakes, rather than making excuses.
- Monitor your self-talk.There is non-stop commentary in our heads that is not always helpful. A little bit of negative self-talk can spiral into stress and depression.Pay attention to the way you respond to your successes and failures — do you pass off your achievements as luck? And crucify yourself after failures? Positive and negative feedback-loops will form in your mind based off how you respond to successes and failures. Being tough on yourself needs to be balanced with self-compassion. Celebrate your wins, forgive your losses.
Organizations benefit more from leaders who take responsibility for what they don’t know than from leaders who pretend to know it all. By becoming more self-aware, it will help you make the right decisions, because you know your blind spots. It will also help you do great work, because you remember past mistakes and address them.
Looking to be a better leader? EFR offers leadership coaching to help you become more self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Learn more and contact your account manager today!