Self-awareness is one of the hallmarks of a great leader. It demonstrates a capacity to honestly evaluate your own actions beliefs and impact on others. But self-awareness eludes most people. Our understanding of ourselves and our worlds are limited. It is rare that we take the time to step back from our thoughts and reflect on the reality of the situations we are in, or how we are creating that reality.
“Every moment your consciousness creates the world you inhabit” Eckhart Tolle.
Our thoughts, beliefs and perceptions create the world around us. There is no objective reality. I can hear many of you objecting to this. You know what you see around you, certain things are facts! But look at it for a moment from a different viewpoint.
The science of psychology tells us that our core, fundamental beliefs in life are developed before we reach the age of five. Without a great deal of conscious work, they change little throughout our lives. Most of what we learn and experience from this point onward is colored by these beliefs held in our subconscious.
How does this relate to objective reality?
Well essentially it means that reality is experienced differently by each person. Every experience you have had, beliefs that you have formed, opinions you hold, impact upon how you experience the current reality. As no two people can have had the exact same experiences throughout life everyone experiences a different reality in any given moment. Thus, there is no objective reality, just that which is created by the mind.
Why is self-awareness so important for leaders?
A study by the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations (2010) found self-awareness to be the strongest predictor of overall success. Awareness of one’s own weaknesses enables executives to work with others who have differing strengths to them, they are more easily able to accept the idea that someone else may have better ideas or abilities than their own and therefore benefit from that. A lack of self-awareness can potentially alienate others, through misunderstanding the impact of your actions on them.
It is a hard skill to define. May people see themselves as being self-aware when they are not. In fact, it is often noted by psychologists that those who claim to know themselves the best are often the least the least self-aware.
It is not something gained by a one-off personality assessment that categorizes you as fitting into a box or as a series of letters.
It is a process of reflection that takes place over years.
It is a continual checking back in with the self to see where you are at. How you are perceived by others and what your current strengths and weaknesses are.
It is a striving to improve and to understand where you are at and how your thinking and actions are influenced by your experiences. Where do your biases lie and how can you overcome these so the world can be viewed in a more realistic way?
Developing your self-awareness
In all these ways above, we can increase our self-awareness and emotional intelligence, become more attuned to the needs of others, increase our emotional and social awareness and manage our responses to situations more effectively.
Some of these goals can be met independently. But feedback, training and development are key to making changes and stretching yourself.
Ask for feedback from those around you.
Seek out support and mentorship.
As you reach more senior levels in an organization there may be less opportunities for feedback and development as you are viewed as competent and not in need of support. An external coach will be invaluable in continuing your progress, increasing self-awareness and becoming a leader people strive to emulate. So invest in yourself and your career.
“Remember that your perception of the world is a reflection of your state of consciousness” and as such YOU are responsible for creating the world you want to live and work in.
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