Every person, a leader or not, should receive some form of self-awareness training. Every person needs to be self-aware for different reasons. First, let’s look at what self-awareness is.
Psychologist John Mayer defines self-awareness as “being aware of your moods and the thoughts about your mood”. The author of Emotional Intelligence, John Mayer, defines self-awareness as “knowing your emotions. It is recognizing a feeling as it happens”.
Another definition of self-awareness is by Debbie Ford which shows that self-awareness “is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad”.
As we can see, self-awareness involves introspection and understanding of your feelings. It is looking deep into yourself and becoming well aware of why you think, feel and behave the way you do. It is knowing your strengths and weaknesses as well as your potential and your limitations.
With the above understanding of the definition of self-awareness, let’s look at why leaders need self-awareness training.
Why we need self-awareness training for leaders
Self-awareness training helps leaders explore their identity
Who are you? How easily can you answer this question? To be a leader, it’s important that you are aware of who you are first before you are a leader. Identity exploration involves exploring your childhood and upbringing, your personality and your self-concept. Your childhood highly influences the person you are today. For example, a childhood of abundance and love can give you confidence, which you need as a leader. A loveless childhood with scarcity can either make you driven or make you develop a mind of scarcity.
It’s good that you have an honest review of how your childhood affects the person you are today. Your personality influences the kind of leader you become as well. For example, many leaders are associated with charm and charisma and if you are an introvert, you may think that you don’t have what it takes to be a great leader. This can go two ways, you can either work on improving your people skills or choose areas of leadership whereby charisma will not always be called into question.
You can also borrow from past leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi who was an introvert but found a way to lead amid quietly. Exploring your identity is crucial to develop self-awareness. In my guide for improving self-awareness, I dedicate a sizeable section in helping you explore your identity.
Know their strengths and weaknesses
It’s important that leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. This is so that they know how to best utilize their strengths in their leadership positions and advance others and the organization as well. Knowing about their weaknesses helps them learn of which areas they can improve on to become better leaders. I cannot emphasize enough that there is no perfect leader. Everyone has a weakness but the good leaders, those that are self-aware and have a growth mindset, know their weakness and find ways to work on their weakness so that they can become better leaders. Some weaknesses cannot be improved by learning a skill and in this case, a leader can hire someone to take care of it. For example, if a leader is not a good communicator, they can take courses to improve their communication skills. On the other hand, if a leader has trouble understanding an aspect of the business, such as finances, they can hire someone to help them in this area such as by interpreting financial results of the business to the leader.
Self-awareness training helps leaders understand their potential and limitations
“Man’s main task is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is”- Erich Fromm
Our potential is one thing; what we do with it is another – Angela Duckworth
One of the goals of self-awareness is helping a person understand their potential and work towards realizing it. a self-aware person knows their potential and through personal development, they work towards working towards it. However, every person has limitations. It may not be easy to accept, but if a leader is self-aware, they will understand their limitation. As Angela Duckworth says in her book, Grit; The power of passion and perseverance, knowing that we have potential is one thing, and learning what to do with it is another. A leader that understands his or her limitations knows that they have to put in effort in certain areas, some more than others, to achieve their potential. This means they gain self-awareness that lets them know in which areas they fall short, they become self-aware without judgment. They know their limitations and where they fall short, and they are not afraid to ask for help in these areas.
Self-awareness training helps with emotional regulation
Emotions are inevitable in our lives. We feel emotions from time to time. Whether it is in the form of anger, sadness, joy, anxiety, and worry, we are bound to feel emotions at different times in our lives. What we do with these emotions matter. When you get angry, what do you do about it? Do you say things that will hurt people and regret it later? Do you yell and thrash about and then feel embarrassed for later for acting like a two-year-old going through terrible twos? Leadership training on self-awareness helps you become aware of emotions as they happen and take charge of them. It ensures that you are not a slave of your emotions. I discussed this in detail as I discussed the importance of emotional intelligence training for leaders.
Self-awareness training helps in personal development
Self-awareness allows you to self-correct -Bill Hybels
Personal development is an activity that an individual undertakes to improve various aspects of your life. I am sure there is something about your life you would like to improve. Maybe you want to be more time-conscious, to become a better communicator, to be more empathetic, to make something out of a talent and a gift you have, to become more productive or simply to improve the quality of your life. This is personal development. All humans and leaders for this case, they would like to engage in some form of personal development to become better leaders. Self-awareness helps in this. How? You can only improve that which you know. You can only solve a problem if first, you understand what the problem is. In this case, therefore, becoming self-aware helps you identify which area of your life needs development and come up with practical ways to develop this area so you can have a more fulfilling life.
Self-awareness training helps us create better relationships
“Good social relationships are like food and thermoregulation, universally important to human mood”- Martin Seligman
By know, you must be aware that good leadership is evidence by influence. You are said to be a good leader if you have a positive influence over the people you work with. Influence results from good relationships. Creating good relationships is not only good for you as a leader but as an individual. Good and authentic leadership is as a result of creating trust with others so that you form authentic bonds. Through self-awareness, you can learn which areas that involve developing good relationships that you are falling short and how to work on them. For example, your relationships may be suffering because you are not a good communicator or you are not empathetic enough. Being self-aware means that you learn how to improve on these areas and become a good communicator, listener and be empathetic with the feelings of others.
Creating relationships is not only important for work but at home too. I’m sure you have encountered individuals who thrive at work but their personal life is a mess. They have little or no communication or no relationship with their spouses. Their family members wonder how they are so loved at work while at home they are a totally different person. Such a person has challenges creating intimate relationships at home and probably thrive at work because they have surrounded themselves with people who worship them at work. The right form of self-awareness training should teach such leaders how to thrive at work and as home as well. it may involve showing the leaders how to handle criticism, possibly from their spouses so that they can be better persons.
Self-awareness training contributes to self-confidence
Earlier on, I had written how self-confidence is one of the elements that make up a competent leader. Confidence is vital to a leader because many are the times a leader will have to stand alone and need to depend on his or her opinions even when others are not in agreement. This cannot be possible if this leader is not confident. Have you ever seen leaders that take pleasure in putting other people down? They thrive in making the lives of other people are miserable and unbearable they can be? Such leaders have low self-esteem and hence low self-confidence. I’m positive that you have also encountered leaders that will not help others grow because they are concerned that their positions will be taken. Such insecure leaders lack confidence in their abilities such that the success of others threatens them. I think such leaders need self-awareness training to help them learn to be more secure and confident in their abilities so that they don’t view others as enemies but as allies to make their leadership positions easier to handle.
Self-awareness training helps improve self-concept
On the same note of confidence and esteem, it’s important that leaders have a positive self-concept. Self-Concept is how you think of yourself. If you have a poor self-concept, you are likely to have low self-esteem and low confidence. This contributes to behaviors that demean others to feel good about yourself. However, when you become self-aware, you develop a positive self-concept since you learn about your strengths and learn how to embrace your weaknesses. You learn that your weaknesses don’t define you and you reduce self-judgment based on these weaknesses. As a result, you perceive yourself as a person worthy of love, the prosperity you are getting and all this makes a better leader who is not so self-absorbed but has the interest in advancing others as well.
Self-aware leaders seek feedback and handle criticism well
If we didn’t receive feedback from others, we would always assume that we are always right and everything we do is to perfection. A good leader encourages feedback. If you are running an organization, you cannot know everything. You cannot have all the answers about what’s good for the organization. In this case, you need feedback and it takes a self-aware person to receive feedback well especially when it is not flattering.
To be a good leader, you need people around you that will give you honest feedback. However, do you think your people could give you honest feedback if all you do after being criticized is threaten to fire everyone on the spot? A self-aware leader does not take feedback and criticism as an attack of who they are but on their behavior. This perception of feedback, therefore, helps them improve their behavior and seek further feedback so that next time they can perform better. Self-awareness training for leaders focuses on helping leaders come up with coping strategies for receiving feedback, both good and bad, what to do it, and how to encourage a business environment that encourages feedback from subordinates.
Self-awareness helps develop ethical leaders
In the modern business environment, we cannot emphasize enough on the importance of ethics. We have seen businesses fall from glory simply because their leaders were unethical and they let an unethical culture gain its roots within the organization. If a leader is unethical, the employees within the organization will likely become unethical too since their behavior is largely an imitation of that of their leaders. When leaders are self-aware, they recognize the role that they have been allocated, to be a representative of the organization and its people. They, therefore, work towards behaving in a way that they do not betray those that have placed their trust in them.