Leadership Qualities – Part 6 Self-Awareness
This is our final article in the series of leadership qualities (competencies). We shall look at Self-awareness in Leadership.
Self- awareness – accurately assesses personal strengths and weaknesses and manages them effectively.
Increasing self-awareness is one of the characteristics of increasing maturity. The better a person knows him/herself, the more accurately he/she can assess areas that require personal development and the better he/she can assess his/her capabilities and inner resources (values, faith, character traits, personality, gifts, motives, emotional responses).
Self-awareness is like a window onto one’s strengths and weaknesses. There are some people who have good awareness of their strengths but find it too difficult to acknowledge their weaknesses. That ability requires self-esteem. (see last week’s leadership article)
Although related and sometimes used synonymously, the two competencies are different. Self-awareness is about self-assessment and control. Self-esteem is about self-image and confidence. These two competencies often work in harmony with each other, the one building on the other so that it is sometimes difficult to tell where one finishes and the other begins.
Leaders who have good self-awareness and good self-esteem, know themselves well enough to recognize and acknowledge when they have reached their limits. These limitations might be in areas of personal knowledge, understanding, skills or gifting. Such leaders acknowledge the point at which they need other people.
Acknowledging the need for others and being willing to employ their strengths is part of being a good leader. It is a characteristic of strength rather than an admission of weakness. To depend on the abilities of others without being threatened by them brings all-round benefits to the team. Those whose skills are utilized feel affirmed, involved and motivated and the team achievements are maximized.
A leader who is willing to freely acknowledge that others have greater ability in particular areas of competence sets a positive example. Seeing those strengths acknowledged and utilized develops an open culture where people are not afraid to admit personal limitations and their need of help. A learning culture is fueled from which everyone benefits.
Good self-awareness is based on a knowledge and understanding of one’s personal value system. A leader with good self-awareness recognizes the personal values that give rise to particular responses.
Acknowledging the values that lie at the heart of an emotion, thought or behavior helps a person understand why he/she reacted in a particular way. Such understanding helps in recognizing and managing the responses effectively rather than causing unpredictable outbursts and expressing the negative ones destructively.
Recognizing that emotions are an indication of health rather than weakness, he/she can acknowledge them without embarrassment. They are neither suppressed nor denied but are understood, controlled and managed until they can be given expression at an appropriate time and place and in an appropriate way.
Such self-knowledge and the ability to control emotions provides a leader with a personal “shock absorber” allowing him/her to stay composed and balanced, particularly when under pressure or in a crisis. When challenged or criticized, this “shock absorber” gives a person the ability to respond constructively.
Good self-awareness characterizes a person who acknowledges and celebrates his/her strengths. At the same time, he/she is clear about areas of personal weakness. Both strengths and weaknesses are acknowledged and managed effectively.
When self-awareness in leadership is enhanced by a positive self-image, the leader is free to depend on others without being threatened by their strengths.