Self-awareness is crucial for success, whatever your leadership role. It makes sense that you can’t manage what you don’t recognize and understand. “If you aren’t aware of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and the way it’s affecting others, you can’t change.” (Stein, S. and Book, H., 2011. The EQ Edge: Emotional intelligence and your success.)
According to a study conducted by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success. “Executives who are aware of their weaknesses are often better able to hire subordinates who perform well in areas in which the leader lacks acumen.”
In The Element of Ethics by W. Brad Johnson and Charles R. Ridley the authors state:
No one can claim not to have weakness. From the mightiest of men and women to the meekest, having vulnerabilities comes with the territory of being human. Yet, having a weakness is not the most serious problem for most people. Ignoring weakness, discounting vulnerability, and behaving like one is invincible is a more serous problem. It can be fatal. (Johnson and Ridley, Kindle location 520).
Consider Superman and Achilles of Troy.
Superman. He is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! He epitomizes what some might call a great leader. Perhaps his greatest secret power is self-awareness. He leverages his strengths and knows his one weakness is kryptonite. To lead well, leaders must know themselves.
On the other hand (or foot), consider Achilles. He was the central character in Homer’s Illiad and the the greatest hero of the Trojan War. In Greek mythology, it was foretold that Achilles would die an early death. To spare him from this fate, his mother Thetis took her baby to the River Styx which had the power to make him invulnerable. Thetis held Achilles by the heel as she dipped him in the river, unknowingly leaving that part of his body not washed by the magical waters. He lead and conquered in many battles, but in one war, he died shortly after being struck in the heel by a poisonous arrow. Wikipedia defines an Achilles heel as a “deadly weakness in spite of overall strength, which can actually or potentially lead to downfall.” Lack of self-awareness led to Achilles’ death.
Both Superman and Achilles had great strengths; they both had weaknesses. Superman was aware of his weakness, but Achilles was not, and that made the difference!
Over the years, a few self-awareness tools have helped me:
Reflected Best Self exercise gives you feedback on what you contributed when people have seen you at your best! This is a very encouraging exercise I did during my M.A. Read a short summary of Reflected Best Self.
Motivational Core or MCore is a powerful assessment that draws out and explains the central themes of our motivational pattern through personal narrative.
Birkman is a powerful tool that will help you identify your passions, behaviors, motivations and interests.
Enneagram: The Enneagram of Personality is a personality typing system that consists of nine distinct types. Each type has a unique set of motivations, fears, and desires.
Queendom.com offers many other free tests, quizzes and assessments on personality, relationships, career, lifestyles and health.
A simple tool I often use for people with whom I have worked is to get feedback: What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What should I continue doing?
Asking questions is a good way to gain self-awareness: How are you experiencing me? What is it like to sit on the other side of me?
What tools are you aware of that have helped you become more self-aware?
Some related articles:
- The Servant-Leader
- 4 Early Warning Signs of a Narcissistic Leader
- The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People
- Three Things I Would Tell My Younger Self
- Achilles – Wikimedia Commons by Wilhelm Wandschneider;
- Superman – Wikimedia Commons