The longer I work with leaders the more I see how often they damage or destroy great opportunities by failing to deal with their own “inner demons” or limiting beliefs. I witness damage not just to their companies, but to their personal lives. One of my CEO clients is now entering the divorce process after only recently telling me what a great relationship he had. Turns out his wife feels like she can’t trust him in ways that are important to her and he didn’t even see it. In this complex day and age self-awareness is a requirement of leaders and leadership. In order to be really effective at the level now required, you need to have an objective understanding of what you are good at, what you are not good at, how well you do or don’t connect with people, what kind of impact or “wake” you leave behind when you exit a meeting, how you handle conflict and stress, how you manage your personal reactivity and more. This level of self-understanding enables you to successfully make better choices for yourself, your team and your organization. Even Richard Branson is acknowledging the importance of self-awareness for leaders in a recent article for Entrepreneur.
However, I see many leaders still overwhelmingly focused on image-building, on “looking good,” and on constructing a seemingly safe façade. The problem is the only way to keep this up is to ignore, deny and avoid many parts of ourselves. To be fair, this is all often happening in a very unconscious or subconscious way, but that is exactly why self-awareness is critical.
It can also be a difficult challenge for leaders, people who are generally successful by cultural standards, to understand why they should take this on? They are already doing great – so what’s the problem? Revisit the last part of paragraph 1 – this is just one of numerous examples I have seen.
If you are ready to begin to understand yourself at a new level, you will need tools, techniques and support and there are various approaches you can take. You can start with something within the professional realm like a good 360 feedback system. (We use one within our 2130 Partners work that we have found to be very powerful.)
On a deeper and more personal level you can use a system like the enneagram, which I have written about previously, or you can decide to work with a professional such as a therapist or counselor.
2014 is coming up fast. Are you ready to take your leadership skills to a new level? Are you ready to do some self-examination and expand your understanding of yourself? It’s a good time to commit to this as one of your goals for next year and start investigating which path you want to take to make it happen. Becoming a self-aware leader will have powerful, positive results that are impossible to predict, but certain to happen.