Leadership Series – Managing Self

Self-awareness is the ability to identify own beliefs, feelings, and emotions is a critical component for leadership success. You can become more purposeful when you know yourself well. You can better lead your team toward the shared vision when you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Leadership coaching can help you accelerate your self-awareness so you can become more effective in achieving your organizational goals. By managing yourself first, you will be able to lead others.

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality,” said Warren Bennis, a pioneer in leadership research. To mobilize others to follow the vision, a leader needs to inspire trust and credibility. 

The best-regarded leaders are those who lead themselves first. People with high self-awareness understand what makes them tick and how to respond effectively. They have more direction, purpose, influence, and success in their professional and personal lives. They also demonstrate the capacity to evaluate their actions, beliefs, and the impact they have on others. 

Self-Awareness is critical for your success as a Leader. In 2010, Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial Relations published a study that examined 72 executives at public and private companies with revenues from $50 million to $5 billion. The research studied executive interpersonal traits, finding that self-awareness was one of the most important traits in leadership success.

Self-Awareness is the ability to identify one own’s feelings, traits, strengths, including how to own behaviors are impacting others. Self-awareness is an ongoing process requiring mindfulness. 

No matter how much progress you make, there is always more to learn about yourself. Being self-aware is a journey, not a status.

As an organizational psychologist and leadership coach, I can attest that those leaders who commit to self-awareness and are willing to do the work are the ones achieving breakthroughs leading to more positive changes that impact their organization’s bottom line.  

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, a leader’s journey to increased self-awareness has 4 phases:

  1. Leadership Wisdom: leader’s reflection based on own’s experiences; 
  2. Leadership Identity: the identification of natural traits; learned skills and core values;
  3. Leadership Reputation: how a leader’s behaviors impact others perceptions; and,  
  4. Leadership Brand: How the leader wants to be perceived based on aspirational traits. 

Leadership coaching allows leaders to explore these four facets in a safe space. With the support of a professional coach, the leader can gain clarity on what are the traits and behaviors that will support the achievement of organizational goals, and what behaviors or beliefs have the potential to derail a leader’s progression. 

I recall the case of a leader who became aware of his micro-managing tendencies. He realized that he was not trusting his reports would be able to complete the work on time. On Sunday mornings, as he was preparing for the week ahead, he would send follow up emails to his team, causing anxiety and stress that ruined their weekends. 

The key to cultivating leadership wisdom is taking time to reflect on your experiences.

The leader discovered his lack of trust was at the core of his micromanaging tendencies. He learned to evaluate case by case, noticing that in most cases, he had no reasons to doubt their direct reports’ ability to complete the work on time. He learned he did not have to ask them to communicate frequently with status reports to verify the standards.

To understand your leadership reputation, ask questions about the reputation you have established, try to view your behavior as others may, and check to see if your reputation aligns with your values and your desired leadership brand.

The leader became aware that his micro-managing tendencies were damaging to his reputation and the goals that he wanted to achieve. He was also creating unnecessary stress and annoyance jeopardizing employee retention and engagement. By taking personal responsibility, he started changing his behaviors and giving his team more space to do the work.

Understanding your leadership brand — how you’d like to be perceived — allows you to act to change those perceptions in a positive, authentic way,

He wanted to become a leader to build winning teams and for that, he needed to learn how to trust and delegate effectively. With increased self-awareness, he learned to recognize when he was falling into micro-managing tendencies and was able to adjust on the fly, instead of acting in an automatic pilot on his micromanaging tendencies. 

Know yourself. Lead yourself. Lead others.

I share important steps to increase your self-awareness:

  1. Own your process, be interested and willing to do the work required to learn about yourself
  2. Stay more in the present by recognizing your thoughts and emotions when they are happening 
  3. Ask for feedback and stay curious and interested to learn about how your behaviors are impacting others 
  4. If you receive feedback that seems to contradict your self-image, do not discount it. Process it with courage and willingness to make positive changes 
  5. Become in touch with your values, priorities, and needs 
  6. Identify the leadership attributes that you want to impersonate 
  7. Endeavor to become the leader that you want to become by consistently practicing the behaviors that are in alignment with your chosen leadership attributes 

In the end, self-awareness is the first step into a journey of personal transformation and self-mastery. If you are a leader ready to take your impact and influence to the next level, consider starting your self-discovery process. Lead yourself first before you can successfully lead others. 

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