The Importance of Self Awareness in Leadership

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 10, 2021 | Published December 7, 2020

Updated March 10, 2021

Published December 7, 2020

Leaders need to be conscious of how their behaviors impact those they lead. Self-awareness in leadership is an important trait for a leader to cultivate. To become a more effective leader, you need the tools to reflect on how your unique characteristics affect the goals of your organization and those you lead.

In this article, we explain what self-awareness in leadership is, give examples of the main traits that self-aware leaders embody and offer several ways you can 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 their words and actions are perceived by others and work to change any of their own shortcomings 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.

Read more: Leadership Styles and Theories

Why is self-awareness in leadership important?

Self-awareness is said to be the most important quality for a good leader. Self-awareness is important in leadership for the following reasons:

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

  • Self-awareness can impact a company's finances. Better-performing companies tend to have more self-aware leaders. These leaders make better decisions and are mindful of how their leadership impacts future outcomes for the company.

  • Self-awareness helps leaders understand what they bring to their role. Understanding their strengths in both industry skills and knowledge as well as personal characteristics allows a leader to better perform their responsibilities within an organization.

  • Self-awareness allows leaders to be realistic in their expectations. Part of leadership is inspiring a team to work toward growth and to 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.

Related: Guide To Self-Leadership

Characteristics of self-awareness in leadership

Self-aware leaders are:

  • Reflective: A large 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 are active listeners. They can adapt based on the reaction of others.

  • Humble: Self-aware leaders are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and work to correct any shortcomings that can get in the way of their leadership.

  • 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 will 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 steps to help you improve self-awareness in your leadership style:

1. Know yourself

Since you are the only constant in changing workplace circumstances, it's important to know your own strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness is powered by the ongoing process of self-reflection. Self-awareness is also tied to your emotional intelligence, which is the ability to recognize emotions in yourself and in others.

Knowing yourself also means determining your internal standard of right and wrong. Your beliefs and behaviors help determine this standard.

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.

3. Gather feedback from trusted contacts

While it may not be possible to truly 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 ask friends, family and coworkers they trust to give insight about specific traits as they seek to better themselves.

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.

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 are making the right choices to meet your goals and advance the goals of others.

6. Look for patterns

To achieve more self-awareness as a leader, find out 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.

7. Build your emotional intelligence

Psychology experts offer exercises to help you practice emotional intelligence through online tools and books. Read tips for maximizing your introspection to improve your self-awareness. Building your emotional intelligence through study can also help you better relate to your teammates.

8. Continually reflect

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

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