Self-awareness is a crucial element of leadership success. History is full of great leaders who understood their limitations and played to their strengths. It’s also littered with fallen heroes who overlooked their tragic flaws.
Many high-ranking executives today are lacking in self-awareness, notes Richard Metheny, head of Witt/Kieffer’s Solutions for Exceptional Leadership practice. This isn’t entirely their fault, however. Frequently, he says, the higher a leader rises in an organization, the less constructive feedback he or she gets regarding important leadership competencies such as self-awareness, ambition, flexibility, or interpersonal sensitivity. There is little direct pressure to be self-aware.
It is in executives’ best interest to develop their self-awareness, Metheny writes in the September issue of Leadership Excellence magazine. He outlines seven steps by which self-awareness can be cultivated:
- Make time. Like any worthy pursuit, you have to set aside time—for coaching and mentoring, skills and personality evaluation, and even writing and reflection.
- Don’t avoid the negative. Address your flaws and foibles head on.
- Embrace modern self-assessment methods. Get data on yourself to know how you stack up against other leaders.
- Put good leadership in context. Know what leadership competencies and qualities work in your organization and industry.
- Embrace performance feedback and peer consultation. “Surround yourself with trusted advisors who shoot straight,” he writes.
- Rethink career development and success. Ask not “Am I working hard enough?” but rather “Am I learning and enjoying what I do?”
- Maintain. Monitor your self-awareness over time.
While some leaders have innate self-awareness, most need to cultivate it, Metheny says. Fortunately, it’s not as hard as it might seem.
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By Paul Thomas, Witt/Kieffer Senior Writer