I heard a great quote this week that I want to share: “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” (Simon Sinek). I think this quote tells a story about how leadership has evolved over the past few years. As a leader, we know we are in charge in some way, but how we lead people has evolved. No longer does the “being bossy” or “my way or the highway” mentality work. Nor does raising our voice, becoming upset, or reacting negatively serve us. The loudest voice or squeaky wheel no longer wins respect. However, going the opposite way may also not win respect, and could even lead to the possibility of being manipulated. With the shortage of skilled labour, it’s tougher than ever to find great employees, let alone keep the great ones we have. So how do we balance our leadership?
Most employees and workers come to work wanting to do a good job. How can we set them up for success, ensure they are productive AND happy, and create a great work environment? A few crucial elements can be key for any leader: How we lead people impacts employee engagement, their productivity, and ultimately company culture, and can make or break a company’s success. As a leader, self-awareness plays more of a role than we know. Having the ability to be self-aware about how our actions and words impact others, and learning more and more about self-awareness can be critical.
So how self-aware are you as a leader?
Did you know that the majority of leaders believe they are self-aware? Statistics show that when leaders were asked if they thought they were self-aware, over 90 % of leaders indicated that thought they were self-aware. Yet recent studies continually show that only 15% of leaders are ACTUALLY self-aware. * (BetterUp.com, Sept 14, 2022) This leaves a huge gap, and causes me to ask, what can we do to become more self-aware if most of us already believe we are self-aware?
First, I believe understanding what is self-awareness is important. What is self-awareness? It is the ability to reflect on your own leadership, and understand how our own actions are not only perceived by ourselves but perceived by others. Being able to reflect and think in the moment and take that extra breath to ACT, and not REACT. Having the ability to take the emotion out of a situation, make decisions on facts, and not get caught up in the “moment”, is one indication of self-awareness. Also, being aware of how our actions and words affect ourselves AND others is huge. Accepting that we THNK we are highly self-aware is probably an indication that we are not as self-aware about how we affect others as we think we are.
What are the benefits of being more self-aware?
According to a Better Up Article (BetterUp.com, Meredith Betz, Sept 14, 2022)., here are some examples of common benefits of self-awareness:
- It gives us the power to influence outcomes
- It helps us to become better decision-makers
- It gives us more self-confidence — so, as a result, we communicate with clarity and intention
- It allows us to understand things from multiple perspectives
- It frees us from our assumptions and biases
- It helps us build better relationships
- It gives us a greater ability to regulate our emotions
- It decreases stress
- It makes us happier
So can we improve our self-awareness, especially when we already believe we are self-aware? Taking time to learn more about ourselves and how our actions and words affect others, and then making changes accordingly goes a long way to improving our own self-awareness and leadership. And to end on the thought of the quote from Simon Sinek we began with, you may ask what self-awareness has to do with “Leadership is about taking care of those in our charge”? Leadership begins with us. If we don’t dig deeper to understand ourselves, how can we lead others?
So how can we become more self-aware?
Being vulnerable, authentic, and willing to work on our imperfections is a sign of great leadership. It takes inner reflection, thoughtfulness, and introspection. It takes time, patience, and the willingness to look further into our own actions to ask ourselves the “what” questions, such as “What did I do well today”, “What could I have done differently”, “What was the outcome of some of my decisions?” “What do I need to do more of or less of?”, and “How did my actions affect others”?
When we ponder our own actions and outcomes, we learn more about ourselves and how our actions and words affect others, and thus, become better leaders. The more we can take an extra breath to think before we act, the better. This keeps us from “reacting”. This enables us to progress as leaders, and not get caught in the moment or emotions. When we ask ourselves questions, we can ask “Did I act, or did I react”? This doesn’t mean questioning our decisions or getting caught up in our heads, but to question and understanding the process of making a decision from other people’s points of view. This is not meant to question everything we do, and thus keep us from making a decision, but is meant to make better decisions as we go. Quite simply, when we ask ourselves questions and reflect, it allows us to improve.
Leadership is a journey that never ends. Enjoy the road! The more we continue our journey, the better leaders we become. And becoming a better leader often helps us bring better (and different) solutions when we run into challenging issues on a day-to-day basis.