Become a better leader through self-awareness — 2018 study

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is understanding your own self. It means having a really good understanding of your emotions, as well as your strengths, limitations, attitudes, values and motives.

What does self-awareness have to do with leadership?

Part of being self-aware is knowing what emotions or feelings drive your behaviours. The moment you realise what triggers your behaviours you begin to understand about others’ actions and behaviours.

You are not working with machines, you are working with people.

As a leader you need to be aware of the emotions driving your team members. Surprisingly (or not!) being blind to the human factor was one of the reasons which contributed to Nokia’s demise from being the world’s best mobile phone company (read Why did Nokia fail?).

Self-awareness in leadership — 4-year research

Dr. Tasha Eurich is an organizational psychologist and executive coach, with a 15-year professional experience witnessing the power of self-awareness in leadership.

Here are the 3 most important conclusions of the self-awareness study as detailed by Dr. Eurich:

  1. There Are Two Types of Self-Awareness
  2. Experience and Power Hinder Self-Awareness
  3. Introspection Doesn’t Always Improve Self-Awareness

1. There are two types of self-awareness: Internal self-awareness — External self-awareness

Self-awareness refers to the following subjects of interest:

  • Passions;
  • Aspirations;
  • Fit with your environment;
  • Thoughts;
  • Feelings;
  • Behaviors;
  • Strengths;
  • Weaknesses;
  • Impact on others.

We’ve found that internal self-awareness is associated with higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness; it is negatively related to anxiety, stress, and depression.

Dr. Tasha Eurich

The external self-awareness is about how others view us in relation to them.

For leaders who see themselves as their employees do, their employees tend to have a better relationship with them, feel more satisfied with them, and see them as more effective in general.

Dr. Tasha Eurich

The researchers assumed that a leader who is high on internal self-awareness would be high on external self-awareness as well. The results proved them wrong: there is virtually no relationship between them.

Dr. Eurich and her team identified four leadership archetypes, each with a different set of opportunities to improve:

  1. The Introspectors;
  2. The Seekers;
  3. The Aware;
  4. The Pleasers.
  • You need to actively work on both of them: seeing yourself clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see you.

2. Experience and Power Hinder Self-Awareness

Dr. Eurich found a surprising discrepancy between believing to be self-aware and actually being self-aware.

Even though most people believe they are self-aware, only 10–15% of the people we studied actually fit the criteria.

How do researchers explain this finding?

3. Introspection Doesn’t Always Improve Self-Awareness

The problem with introspection — you’re not doing it correctly!

“What” questions help us stay objective, future-focused, and empowered to act on our new insights.

Conclusions

To become a better leader through self-awareness you need to do the following:

  • Focus on building both internal and external self-awareness;
  • Seek honest feedback from loving critics;
  • Ask what instead of why.

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