Excellent Leaders Proactively Seek Greater Self-awareness

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. -AristotleExcellent leaders are self-aware, they know how they impact others, they understand their own “hot buttons,” and they continually strive for even greater awareness. I would argue that one can’t achieve excellence as a leader without great self-awareness.

What do these excellent leaders do differently?

They consistently do these four things:

  1. They spend time understanding their own “wiring.” We are each different, and excellent leaders have developed an understanding of what makes them tick based on personal reflection and the use of assessment / discovery tools such as DISCMyers-Brigg Type IndicatorEmotional Intelligence, StrengthsFinder and others.
  2. They actively communicate their values, priorities, and decision-making style to others. In doing so, they seek to become more transparent and known to people around them. They apply their understanding of the Johari Window to constantly increase the quadrant of “known to self | known to others”.
  3. They proactively and regularly seek feedback – from manager or board, from peers, from direct reports, from customers. These excellent leaders ask for input: “I want to be better and I learn by the feedback you’re willing to share with me.”
  4. They make it easy for others to give them the feedback they need to hear, and they act on the feedback they receive.

The biggest challenge I see for most of my executive coaching clients is the last item: obtaining feedback from others. The higher one’s level in an organization, the harder it is to get direct candid feedback. Subordinates are scared to death of providing candid feedback to someone who may control their job – they can see a potentially career limiting move. One’s boss often doesn’t take the time.

In a next post, I’ll offer some suggestions for getting the feedback you need from those who report to you.

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