Why self-awareness is key in leadership?

As a compassionate leader you recognise that leadership is not about you, it is about your team and your people.

As a compassionate leader you recognise that leadership is not about you, it is about your team and your people. Your role is to enable your people to succeed, to be brilliant and the very best that they can be. Surely the most important element of your role is in your understanding of others, so why do you need to be self-aware too?

The reality is that it all begins with you, and there are 2 reasons why it is so important; to “park yourself” and to “fulfil yourself”!

Let me explain what I mean by “parking yourself” and to do so I will explore the scenario of a company away day to motivate the team. Now, I happen to be very keen on my rugby and, whilst there, a small beer or two tends to match very well. 

So …

“Hey team, great news, I’ve booked a team away-day. We’re off to a rugby match and to sink a shed load of beers too! What do you think? Great hey”?

A few cheers from some. A knowing smile from others. A wince and an intake of breath from quite a few and some just keep their heads down and carry on. A significant number shudder internally as their worst hell is realised.

On the day, the stereotypical scene plays out. My team win and we celebrate long into the night, well, a few of us anyway.

Just in one hit, as the leader, I managed to reinforce a same-same clique, alienate most of my team, demotivate a sizeable group and potentially persuade some to have a look for opportunities elsewhere.

So what went wrong? 

There is a text in most religious teachings that says, “Do unto others as you would like done to you”. But I believe this is fundamentally flawed. I don’t want you to do to me what you want done to you. I want you to do to me what I want done to me. It is only with self-awareness that I can realise the impact on others of me just fulfilling my own motivations. My own habits, motivations, values, beliefs, priorities, prejudices and biases get in the way of my ability to relate, motivate, communicate and lead others. It is my deep personal self-awareness that allows me to consciously “park my needs” and so be in service of others; to lead with compassion and impact.

The second reason is deeply personal and powerful for your own life and is a must for you to be an effective and happy person, let alone a leader. It is this.

How do I know that I am fulfilling my own destiny in life if I am unsure on what it is? Am I living someone else’s dream? Have I just become a pawn on another person’s chessboard, or is my life and legacy my own? How can I live true to my own values and beliefs if I am unconscious of them? You cannot. It is our deep self-awareness that allows us to live our own lives; to live a life of purpose and meaning. Only by being aware of our personal needs and motivations can we feed them. A conscious enquiry of our fears and doubts allows us to overcome them. The intelligence of our emotional state enables us to understand the drivers and their impact and so use them to the benefit of ourselves and others.

By living a life based on a strong awareness of self, we tap into our self-worth which is our source of happiness, resilience, fulfilment and so we sit atop of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in a state of self-actualisation.

To be a leader, you must first be in a good place yourself. You will not have the energy or focus to give of yourself to others if your self-worth is compromised. 

Your journey of discovery as a self-aware and compassionate leader will allow you to park yourself and feed yourself, and that’s a powerful combination.

It all begins with your self-awareness. Enjoy the journey and be kind with what you discover – it reveals your superpowers and your limitations!


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