AM I GOOD ENOUGH? WHY SELF-AWARENESS BUILDS SUCCESSFUL LEADERS
One of the phrases that resonate with me when I read ‘Becoming’ was ‘Am I good enough?’ Michele Obama asked herself this question several times in the book. Her reflections shaped by her experiences and her environment helped her become who she is today.
Self-awareness is about the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively. If you have a clearer view of who you are, you will make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. Brene Brown describes it brilliantly when she writes that leaders without self-awareness are a huge energy drain – not just for themselves but for the people who work with them. They also cultivate an eggshell culture that is dominated by fear and hurt. Self-aware leaders, on the other hand, build success by instilling confidence and promoting inclusivity.
As a leadership coach, I have seen firsthand the power of self-awareness. I also know how easily attainable this skill is. So, this week, I would like to share some of my ideas with you.
According to organisational psychologist and author, Dr Tasha Eurich, there are two categories of self-awareness: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness.
Internal self-awareness is associated with our belief systems, values, and aspirations. It is about who we are and what we stand for. It relates to our happiness, job satisfaction and sense of control. On the flip side is anxiety, stress, and depression.
External self-awareness, on the other hand, is our understanding of how others view us in relation to the factors discussed above. Leaders who can understand how others feel about them are more capable of demonstrating empathy than those who cannot understand others.
Success is not indicative of self-awareness. A good leader can have an abundance of self-confidence and other traits, but they are not necessary, self-aware. Research by HRB shows that only 10-15% of successful managers and business leaders have actual self-awareness.
Also, there is no correlation between internal and external self-awareness. This means that a leader can have a high degree of internal self-awareness but little external self-awareness or vice versa. The diagram of the four archetypical leaders below explains:
HOW SUCCESS CAN HINDER SELF-AWARENESS
Experience and power can give a leader a false sense of confidence over their performance and abilities. As their power grows, they can become less willing to listen to others because they think they know better or because feedback can come with a cost. For example, the experienced marketing director who thinks he/she knows everything about the industry may choose not to conduct crucial research. A successful CEO who has made up his mind on how to progress a project may not want feedback from others that could potentially derail his/her plans.
I like to challenge the managers at my workshop to consider reasons that can hinder their self-awareness. The most common reply is a cliché – ‘It is lonely at the top!’ At executive floor, a CEO has fewer opportunities to interact with the shop floor. This means less chances of receiving genuine and candid feedback. Also, their position of power becomes a barrier to communication. A clerk who is uncomfortable talking to the boss is more likely to hold back important feedback.
To find out what is going on, leaders have to find a way to encourage their workers (from all levels) to speak comfortably and candidly with them. If you do not know what is really happening in your organisation, you cannot lead effectively.
AM I GOOD ENOUGH? REFLECTION VS INTROSPECTION
Introspection doesn’t always improve self-awareness. Whenever I make this statement, I get a reaction from the managers I am training. Most participants assume introspection – examining our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours – make us more aware of who we are and therefore gives us the self-awareness we need to succeed.
While it is true that introspection helps us contextualise our actions and behaviours, it focuses on the individual i.e. ourselves. Introspection answers the ‘why’. ‘Why did I lose my temper in the meeting?’ (Behaviour). ‘Why do I dislike A so much?’ (Emotion). ‘Why do I not like this idea?’ (Attitude). Usually, many of the answers we are seeking do not exist in our conscious mind. Our emotions, attitudes and behaviours are influenced by our unconscious. To compensate, we make up answers that can explain things. Not all these answers are true.
Leaders who reflect on their roles and the impact their roles are having on others, however, develop a greater sense of awareness. Essentially, we ask the ‘what’ and ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’. ‘What am I doing here?’ ‘What is the fallout of the decision I make?’ ‘How will it impact my staff?’ ‘How do I get my workers to talk candidly with me?’ Self-reflection is about asking ‘Am I good enough?’ And by whose standards? Mine? Ours? Theirs? Self-reflection extends beyond an honest and objective appraisal of ourselves. It is also about the willingness to accept candid responses from others and to acknowledge the work of others. Managers who focus on developing both internal and external self-awareness, learn to see themselves better and in the process become better leaders. Finally, no matter how much progress you make, there is always more to learn. That is why self-awareness is such a rewarding journey. Have you started questioning ‘Am I good enough?’