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Are You a Self-Aware Leader?

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Are You a Self-Aware Leader?

Your employee casually said something in a meeting that instantly jars you. You feel your jaw clench, your shoulders stiffen, and a knot plummets to the pit of your stomach. You wonder, why am I so bothered by that fleeting comment? You don’t hear the rest of the conversation because you’re too distracted by your thoughts. Why would she say that? Why do you feel so angry? How will you address this later? Do you even need to address it all? You’re pulled from your inner dialogue when you hear your name and realize everyone in the conference room is looking at you, waiting for you to reply. You aren’t entirely sure what question was posed, or what information they need. “Can you reframe your question, please,” you say instead. The tension still resides in your body, but you shove your thoughts aside and return your focus to the meeting at hand. You’ll analyze everything that just happened later.

If you’ve found yourself in a situation similar to the one described, you’re not alone. Many leaders may even consider their ability to recognize a basic fight or flight response as self-aware. The leader described above was able to discern a comment that bothered them. They could feel the tension growing in their body, and they associated it with anger. The leader above, like most leaders in corporate America, may even applaud themselves for mastering their emotions with the resolve to analyze the situation later. Yet, this is not a complete understanding of self-awareness.

What is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, and align your behavior with your values. Self-aware people can objectively interpret their thoughts, feelings, and actions to course-correct or make decisions that coincide with their belief system or standards. True self-awareness is a rare quality, with only 10-15% of the population fitting the criteria.

2 Types of Self-Awareness

Two types of self-awareness are equally needed and will make you a better leader when combined correctly.

2 Types of Self-Awareness

Two types of self-awareness are equally needed and will make you a better leader when combined correctly.

1. Public Self-Awareness: This is the ability to understand how others perceive you. It is not an obsession with what others think of you; that is self-consciousness. Public self-awareness helps you discern whether others see the authentic you and help you evaluate whether others can see your internal standards based on your actions. If you hold compassion as one of your top values but lead with a strong hand of authority, blasting your employees for mistakes, you are not publicly self-aware.

2. Private Self-Awareness: This is the ability to recognize your internal state. Privately self-aware people are intuitive, reflective, and curious. Private self-awareness helps you clarify your thoughts, emotions, and values, and discover your strengths and weaknesses. Understanding yourself helps you healthily connect with others. You can lead with empathy, seek to empower others, and foster collaboration when your private and public self-awareness match.

How to Become Self-Aware

There are three factors to help you self-assess in any given situation. The more you take inventory of yourself, the more self-aware you will become. When always highly self-aware, you can lead with confidence, compassion, and calmness.

1. Identify Your Mood: Naming your emotion is empowering. It is the first step to mastering emotion. Naming something puts you in authority over it and learning how to name your feelings helps overcome your emotions rather than your emotions overcoming you. The more you expand your mood vocabulary, the better you will be at correctly naming your feelings and mastering them. But do not confuse mastery with suppression. When you determine that you are feeling angry, anxious, insecure, jealous, happy, excited, overwhelmed, or any other emotion, it is not helpful to stifle it or hide it. It is also not justification for an inappropriate reaction. Naming your emotion is like solving the first clue in a puzzle. It propels you to the next step in your self-evaluation. Privately, you name your mood, and you ask, “now what? What can I do to move forward? Is there an action step I can take, a conversation I need to have, or an adjustment I need to make?"

2. Pay Attention to Your Physiological State: Your body is always trying to tell you something, but are you listening? An increased heart rate, a knot in your stomach, the tightness between your shoulder blades. These are all physiological signs of stress. Throughout the day, practice performing a “body scan.” Start at your toes and mentally scan your entire body, paying attention to anything that feels “off.” Just as you notice negative sensations in your body, take inventory of the experiences or situations that put you at ease, help you relax, or excite you.

3. Identify Your Thoughts: This is where many of us get stuck in our journey to self-awareness, as your thoughts create your responses and give reason to your reactions. To isolate your thoughts is hard work that requires intentionally slowing down your mind to determine your thought patterns. Repetitive thoughts illuminate a core belief that impacts how you view yourself and others which fuels your behaviors and choices. Discovering repetitive negative thoughts leads you to understand what triggers you and why you respond a certain way. But when you practice self-assessment, you can identify the thought and change the pattern when triggered. Again, this is not easy, but it is possible.

Benefits of Self-Awareness

What is the point of doing the hard work to become self-aware?

  • It gives you the power to influence outcomes
  • It helps you become a better decision-maker
  • It makes you more confident and gives you the ability to communicate with clarity and intentionality
  • It helps you understand the perspective of others
  • It frees you from your biases
  • It gives you the ability to regulate your emotions
  • It decreases stress

To learn other skills to help you become the best leader you can be, contact Front Line Leadership for more information on our training programs.

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