How well do you really know yourself? Do you know what makes you happy? What gets you angry? What drives you? If you have self-awareness, you know yourself intimately. Self-awareness is one of the most important traits for leaders to develop. With self-awareness you gain knowledge about yourself and know how to act and behave as a leader should.
When you are a leader, you have to manage not just your staff, you also have clients and suppliers to deal with. Sometimes, these external parties may be difficult to work with. For example, if you have a difficult client who is always arguing with you or challenging the way things are done in your company. Do you get angry and argue back? Or do you pause and listen to what they have to say and focus on how you can demonstrate to them that you have their best interest at heart?
Great leadership starts with you. Once you master the art of leading yourself, you can lead others better.
The 80/20 rule
Success is 80% mindset and 20% strategy. When you have understanding of your inner self, you have control over your thoughts, feelings and actions. When you have control, you start thinking, acting and behaving like a great leader.
The mind is a powerful element. Oprah Winfrey has a famous phrase: ‘The whole point of being alive is to develop into the complete person you are destined to be’. If you think you can do something, you can. If you start self-doubting, you can’t. If you want to become a great leader, get yourself into the right frame of mind and start believing in your own greatness. Belief is a potent motivator. If you believe in something long enough, you eventually manifest its reality. I am not saying the stars become aligned and you wake up one morning and you have become a brilliant leader. I am saying when you believe in something hard enough, you take action to make it happen.
Let’s say you want a promotion. If you believe you are good for the role, you start making things happen for yourself. Perhaps it’s going to the HR Manager and sounding him or her about the role. Or putting in an application. Or making an appointment with the Head of the Department and having a conversation. Things don’t fall from the sky. It’s the actions you take that makes you greater. If you take no action, nothing will happen.
The television remote syndrome
Andy was a young but ambitious professional when he came to me for leadership coaching. He was taken aback when I decided to talk about his television remote control.
The televisions we buy come with a remote control and a manual. Nowadays, the manual could be an app but there’s always a guide to tell us how to operate the television and how to troubleshoot a problem.
When we were born, we were not given a manual to tell us how to live our lives or what to do if we want to succeed in life. We learn this through our experiences. Of course we receive guidance and advice from our parents, guardians and others who are close to us. Ultimately, it is ‘us’ who decide how to live our lives. We make up our personal instruction manual and we have the power to change it if it is not taking us in the direction we want to go.
The good, the bad and the ugly
I said earlier in this piece that our mind is the master of our destiny. If we master our minds, we can control our destiny. That’s the good part. The bad news is our mind is also constantly trying to trip us up. Self-doubt creeps in when we think we’ve won and we start disbelieving our own abilities. Here’s the really ugly – we start behaving in strange, unpleasant ways that not only affects us but affects others around us. For example, we give up on our pursuit of a higher degree because we start believing we can’t pass it even though we know getting qualified could mean getting promoted. We are prejudiced against our workers because they speak with an accent or we start making biased decisions that favour some and exclude others.
Let’s end on a positive note and go back to the good bit. The good news is we have the power to turn the tables and take back control of ourselves. We do this through self-awareness.
Self-awareness gives us the power to understand what we are feeling and why we feel or act in a certain way. So, instead of showing annoyance or losing our cool at an employee, we check ourselves, take stock of the situation, rewind our anger and start again.
Imagine yourself as a computer. Your body is the hardware, your mind the software. Computers become outdated. They grow old and stop functioning. Likewise we all age over time. That’s why there are diets, exercise and wellbeing. These regimes are designed to keep our bodies functioning. If we let ourselves go we become less efficient, slower and sluggish. Likewise, your mind is the software. Take a look at your mobile. It’s constantly sending you upgrades, right? That’s why you need to also upgrade your mind. Learning is a constant if you want to be at the top. When you are at the top, learning is still a constant. So, if you want to be at the top of the game, you have to constantly upgrade yourself. If you don’t, you could become outdated and obsolete.
5 ways to mastering self-awareness
In my book ‘Great Leadership Starts with You’ I discussed at length the subject of self-awareness. It is a book worth reading if you are interested in developing this extraordinary trait. Here are the 5 secrets to mastering self-awareness I shared in my book.
1. Practise self-reflection
Reflection is about pressing the pause button and taking stock of what has happened. When we start reflecting we think about all the wins and misses we have for the day. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes of our time each day but it contributes to a lifetime of knowledge and awareness.
No one can remember everything. It’s a good idea to start a journal and make a record of things. Every experience has value. Even simple things. Start a journal and record what you feel is worth noting. It does not have to be ‘big’ things. It can be simple things like the lessons you have learned for the day, some feel-good moments you experienced or someone who has been kind or generous to you. It can also be some mistake you make at work that you want to take note of. Writing gives you clarity. As you write, you reflect. The more you reflect, the better you understand. You are on the road to self-awareness.
You can also use your journal to record your leadership, career or personal goals. Again, writing these down help you reflect and gives you clarity. That’s why at an organisational level, we have planning meetings. We don’t just discuss plans. We write them down so every stakeholder can read and understand them. We also constantly review these plans to make sure the strategies we produce are delivering results. You do this regularly at work. So, do this for your personal goals as well. If it works at an organisational level, it will work at a personal level too.
Personality and aptitude tests are brilliant at giving you a snapshot of yourself. Be truthful when answering questions. Answer what you feel is the real ‘you’ for a more accurate forecast. In my role as a leadership coach, I use personality tests as a guide to help my clients better understand themselves. It works so give it a go.
4. Invite feedback
As managers we are used to giving our team feedback but how easy is it for us to be on the receiving end of feedback? Not easy. To make it easier for yourself, why not change your perspective on feedback? Don’t look at feedback as a criticism or a personal attack on you. Look at it as valuable information you can use to achieve your career or personal goals. If you change the way you think about it, you become more open to receiving it and less threatened by it.
5. Practice mindfulness and meditation
Get yourself into a healthy frame of mind before you begin your journey into self-awareness. You can do this by taking time to relax and unwind. A clear mind thinks better than a crowded one.
The more you learn about yourself, the better equipped you are at mastering your life. You can become that great leader with an inspired lifestyle that suits your unique values, abilities and needs. Be self-aware. Be great!
Start developing your self-awareness by reading my book ‘Great Leadership Starts with You’. Click the link to grab your signed copy: https://youwantgroup.com/great-leadership-book/
Iris Du is a leadership strategist and human behaviour expert who thrives on helping individuals, leaders and businesses achieve the success they deserve. Drawing on leadership, attraction and manifestation strategies, Iris works with organisations to help them leverage their natural talent to create highly engaged and high-performing leaders and teams.