Effective Leaders are Self-Aware

True leaders are self-aware. The more you understand your strengths and weaknesses, the better you will lead others. If you have been so externally focused that you have not spent much time on reflective analysis, the good news is that self-awareness is a skill that you can learn and develop, and it just takes a willingness to be thoughtful.

Begin by reflecting on your past experiences.  How have your beliefs been shaped by what you have witnessed? Think about how those experiences have shaped your actions. I once worked for a horrible manager. Years later, when I faced a difficult situation as a leader, I would ask myself, “How would James (not his real name) handle this?”  And then I would usually do the opposite. Hopefully, some of your experiences have provided you with more positive lessons. 

Secondly, come to grips with the different elements of your identity. Some of these elements are beyond your control. This includes your age and your sex. Then there are elements you do control. These might consist of your political affiliation, profession, and hobbies. All of these contribute to the way you see the world and the others view you

The final ingredient of your self-awareness portfolio is your reputation and how others view you.  If I were to ask your peers, or direct reports, to describe you, what would they say? Would their description match the way you see yourself? Is there an alignment? To get an honest appraisal, you may need to ask your boss and direct reports after telling them how critical their assessment is to you. A better way is to have an independent third party, such as an executive coach, conduct a “360 Review” on your behalf.

Congratulations if there is alignment as long the assessment is positive.

If you are perceived differently from the way you view yourself or negatively, you won’t be perceived as the leader you want to be. In that case, you have work to do.

  • List the things that you want to work on.
  • Determine how you can improve, and
  • How you will gain and implement the new skills

Write down all of the things you want to be known for, and periodically review them. Let them become your guideposts as you work with others from that day forward.


Learn more of what it takes to be a leader. My book, “Be A Leader, Not Just A Manager” will put you on a pathway towards more effective leadership. Buy your copy now.

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