7 Strategies To Improve Self-Awareness in Leadership

Updated March 16, 2023

A group of seven sits and stands at a conference table while another person addresses the group.

Self-awareness in leadership is an important quality that can help you better understand how your actions influence the attitudes and productivity of your employees. Knowing how to cultivate self-awareness is one way you can work toward becoming an effective leader and fostering a positive work environment.

In this article, we discuss self-awareness in leadership and the main traits embodied by self-aware leaders, and we offer seven strategies to help you improve self-awareness in your leadership.

What is self-awareness in leadership?

Self-awareness in leadership is an understanding of how your personality traits, habits and abilities affect your interactions with the people around you, particularly in the workplace. Leaders who are self-aware actively reflect on how others perceive their words and actions and work to change their approaches so they can lead their peers more effectively. Self-awareness leads to personal control and growth that helps leaders use their strengths to guide teams to the best possible outcomes.

Why is self-awareness in leadership important?

Attaining self-awareness is important in leadership for many reasons, including the following:

  • Assisting leaders in making better choices: Effective leaders use self-awareness to manage their own behavior and relationships. Leaders can develop self-knowledge to better compensate for their natural tendencies and abilities as they make decisions in the workplace.

  • Impacting a company's finances: Companies may rely on self-aware leaders to be successful. Companies with greater success can also improve their financial standings.

  • Helping leaders understand what they bring to their role: Understanding their strengths in both industry knowledge and personal characteristics helps leaders to better perform their responsibilities within an organization.

  • Allowing leaders to be realistic in their expectations: Part of effective leadership is inspiring a team to work toward growth and meet goals. Self-aware leaders know how to balance what they want their team to accomplish with the creative vision they bring to the group.

Read more: Guide to 6 Top Leadership Theories and How To Apply Them

Characteristics of self-awareness in leadership

Here's a list of qualities of self-aware leaders:

  • Reflective: A part of self-awareness comes from reflecting on your own thoughts, words and actions as you communicate with others.

  • Observant: Self-aware leaders pay attention to what's happening around them by following cues from their environment.

  • Empathetic: Understanding the needs of others helps self-aware leaders relate to those they lead.

  • Perceptive: Anticipating the outcome of a situation is another important trait of self-aware leadership.

  • Responsive: Leaders who are self-aware employ active listening. They can adapt based on the reaction of others.

  • Self-controlled: Leaders who are self-aware have the ability to manage their own words and actions.

  • Discerning: Self-awareness comes from making wise choices about how you can handle a situation.

  • Adaptable: Self-aware leaders assess a situation and respond by changing their behaviors.

Related: What Is the Importance of Leadership?

How to improve self-awareness in leadership

Consider these strategies to help you improve your level of self-awareness in your leadership style:

1. Know yourself

Since you're the only constant in changing workplace circumstances, it can be helpful to know your own strengths and weaknesses. The ongoing process of self-reflection powers self-awareness. Emotional intelligence, which is the ability to recognize emotions in yourself and in others, also influences your self-awareness. Knowing yourself also means determining your internal standard of right and wrong. Your beliefs and behaviors help determine this standard.

Related: Guide to Self-Leadership

2. Identify how other people react to you

One way you can assess how your actions affect others in the workplace is by observing or reflecting on how they react to you. Identify what factors cause them to respond in a certain way. This helps you understand your impact on others.

Related: 8 Steps To Improve Your Self-Awareness (With Tips)

3. Gather feedback from trusted contacts

While it can be challenging separate your personal bias as you assess yourself, asking others to give input is one way to gain a broader picture of who you are and how you relate to others. Self-aware leaders may ask friends, family and coworkers they trust to give insight about specific traits as they seek to better themselves.

Related: What Is a Feedback Model? Benefits and Common Types

4. Find ways you can show more empathy

Considering the feelings of others as you communicate and make decisions is another way to act self-aware as a leader. Paying attention to the emotional needs of those you lead can help guide your decisions and relationships as a self-aware leader. Be mindful of others' body language while you speak with them to gain insight into their emotions.

Related: What Is Self-Awareness? (And How To Increase Yours)

5. Be perceptive about your traits

Be mindful of your circumstances so you know when to use a certain trait in a given situation. Leverage your strengths to achieve positive results. Acting in self-awareness means evaluating whether you're making the right choices to meet your goals and advance the goals of others. You can also aim to build your emotional intelligence. Use online tools and books to learn how to be considerate of the emotions of your teammates. Learn how to maximize your introspection to better understand yourself and those around you.

Related: FAQ: What Are the Key Components of Emotional Intelligence?

6. Look for patterns

To achieve more self-awareness as a leader, determine what makes you the best you can be and strive toward those outcomes. Notice when you receive a positive response from your communication and actions as you interact with your team. Work to improve those traits and use them as much as possible.

Related: Emotional Intelligence Skills for the Workplace (Definition and Examples)

7. Practice self-evaluation

Those who are self-aware continually process and reflect on their situations. Practice this before, during and after the conversation. Use your emotional intelligence and empathy to assess how you impact others through your personal characteristics.

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