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Self-Awareness for Leaders – Why should you care?

I can hear you say: “of course, I am self-aware, here she goes again with yet another buzz word.” If I told you, there is a way to increase performance, strengthen your relationships, make better decisions, become more innovative and live a more fulfilled life, would you want to hear about it? Self-awareness is the foundation for change, it leads to more clarity and will allow you to make better, conscious decisions.

What does it even mean to be self-aware? Sometimes, it is easier to define a concept by describing the opposite. Think about a time when you went into your car, and the next thing you know you have arrived at your destination, but you don’t remember the actual driving. You were on automatic-pilot, unconscious of the world around you, probably lost in thoughts.

Another example is when you get really frustrated with a colleague, a direct report, your children, and you lash out only to regret your actions afterwards. Automatic behaviours are very useful. We wouldn’t be able to go through the day if we had to rethink every habit all the time. The problem is that we find ourselves repeating patterns, habits that might have served us well in the past, but no longer serve us in the present situation. This is what makes us feel stuck.

If you stay in this unconscious state of mind, it leads you to react to your circumstances, and you end up being at the mercy of your thoughts, emotions, automatic reactions. When you become self-aware, you are empowered to choose your response. There is tremendous freedom in that realization.

As humans, we have the ability to examine our own thoughts, reactions, patterns, emotions, strengths and weaknesses. This ability gives us the power to be in control of our circumstances and choose our destiny. In other words, self-awareness gives us the ability to choose how we want to behave. We go from a state of victim to a “responsible” player.

Now that we’ve established the importance of self-awareness, what are some of the ways in which you can develop this skill? What should you be aware of and how do you become more aware?

A good place to start is to notice where your thinking is going. What are some of the thoughts you have but don’t share? What is your inner critic saying? How often is he/she around? What are some of the words you are using? For instance, are you using a lot of “should”, “always”, “never”? These are indications that there might be patterns that are not serving you well in the current circumstances. Notice your tone of voice, notice how you react to other people’s tone of voice.

One of the big parts of self-awareness is emotional self-awareness. We tend to view ourselves as thinking beings with emotions. In fact, we are feeling beings that sometimes think. You can view emotions as an alarm system that this train of thought is taking you in the wrong direction. Being aware of your emotions is not about being emotional or not. It’s about being effective in how you use your emotions in a healthy and productive way. There are some very effective assessments that can help with emotional awareness if you feel it is hard to get in touch with your emotions and they impact your behaviour.

Objective clarity is an incredibly powerful tool for leaders, and it is something that you cannot ignore. It will support strong relationship building, better decision-making, better problem-solving, and simply a happier more fulfilled life.

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