Building Self-Awareness for Effective Leadership

blog Aug 15, 2023

Building Self-Awareness for Effective Leadership: We can't change what we're not aware of


How self-aware are you as a leader?

Have you ever been in a situation where you were oblivious to a particular issue until someone brought it to your attention?

Like the moment you become aware of a stain on your shirt? Or food stuck in your teeth after a meal? Things that you weren’t aware of until someone brought it to your attention or you noticed it.

In these situations, you likely immediately took action to rectify the problem once you became aware.

In leadership, it can take us a little longer to develop this kind of awareness – and even if we are aware, the necessary action isn’t always clear.

As writer, tech executive, and philanthropist Sheryl Sandberg says, “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”

In leadership, just as in life, we cannot change what we are unaware of.

Once we become aware, however, change becomes possible. Building self-awareness for effective leadership is one of a leader's most critical areas of self-development. Our ability to have insight into ourselves allows us to be better leaders, support our teams better, and ultimately drive success for our businesses in a more aligned and cohesive way.


Building Self-Awareness as a Leader      

As leaders, building self-awareness is crucial to our personal and professional growth.

Understanding your leadership strengths and areas of improvement allows you to leverage your strengths while filling any gaps.

Three steps to help you build self-awareness as a leader:

1. Self-Reflection: Take time to reflect on your leadership style. Consider what feels natural and effortless and what areas challenge you. Pay attention to your instincts and emotions during leadership tasks. Schedule time into your workdays/weeks/months to pause and reflect.

2. Seek Feedback: Surround yourself with people who can provide honest and constructive feedback on your leadership. Trusted team members, mentors, or coaches can be invaluable in providing insights into your strengths and areas of improvement.

3. Assessment Tools: Consider using personality assessments or psychometric tests to gain deeper insights into your leadership style. One such tool is the DISC assessment, which categorises leadership styles into four quadrants: Dominant (D), Influential (I), Steady (S), and Conscientious (C).


Self-awareness is cultivated over time, so remember to be kind to yourself on the journey when you do gain that insight. We’re all doing the best we can with the information we have in any given moment.


The DISC Assessment

The DISC assessment categorises leadership styles into four primary quadrants, each with unique characteristics.

This framework can be especially useful for leaders and teams to gain critical insights into their how they work and their immediate strengths. It also allows you to identify any clashes that might arise within your team or yourself before they happen. 

D (Dominant): Assertive, results-driven, and direct. D leaders are risk-takers who make tough decisions quickly and prioritise efficiency.

I (Influential): Charismatic, outgoing, and enthusiastic. I leaders excel at building relationships and leading through influence.

S (Steady): Patient, cooperative, and reliable. S leaders value stability and are peacekeepers and nurturers.

C (Conscientious): Detail-oriented, systematic, and analytical. C leaders thrive on data and processes.


Most individuals are a mix of different styles, with one or two being more dominant. Understanding your primary leadership style can help you play to your strengths and work on areas requiring additional development.


Embracing Self-Awareness and Developing Your Leadership Skills        

Once you have gained self-awareness of your leadership strengths and areas of improvement, take action to leverage this knowledge:

Embrace Your Strengths: Own and utilise your natural leadership strengths to your advantage. This will build your confidence as a leader and help you lead more authentically.

Work on Areas of Improvement: Be conscious of areas where you can improve and actively work on developing the skills you need to be successful in these areas. Seek professional development opportunities, coaching, or mentoring to help you grow.

Create a Common Language: Encourage open communication within your team by creating a common language around leadership styles and areas of improvement. This will foster a culture of trust and accountability.

Understanding your natural leadership style, strengths, and areas of improvement will allow you to lead more authentically and effectively.


Encouraging self-awareness as the leader of a team

As a leader, self-awareness is essential for personal growth and understanding and developing your team members.

Take the same principles of self-awareness and apply them to your team:

Seek Awareness for Your Team: Get to know your team members innate skills, passions, strengths, and weaknesses. Understand their natural default settings to support them better.

Encourage Self-Reflection: Encourage your team members to reflect on their own strengths and areas for development. Support their self-awareness journey.

Develop Individualised Approaches: Tailor your leadership approach to each team member's unique style. Flex your leadership style to communicate and motivate each individual effectively.

Building self-awareness as a leader is a powerful tool for personal and team growth. Surrounding yourself with people who can help you cultivate this awareness, and maintaining an open mind, will allow you to level up your leadership. 

Embrace self-awareness, seek support where needed, and apply this newfound knowledge to unleash the power of your people and create success for your business.

Remember, change begins with awareness.


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