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Three Ways to Become a More Self-Aware Leader

My number one recommendation for leaders right now is to become intensely self-aware. Read on for three ways to do just that.

In a recent coaching session, one of my CEO clients was feeling particularly overwhelmed and anxious because his organization is still reeling from the never-ending chaos impacting the business world. He asked, “If I’m feeling this stressed and unfocused, how am I supposed to effectively lead my people?”

This is a super talented leader of a fast-growing organization and one of my favorite clients to work with because he understands the value of investing in his executive team. I’ve worked with almost all of them, individually and as a group. So, he’s doing all the right things to hold the tiller steady no matter what is happening around him.

So why then, was he feeling so overwhelmed and anxious?

Because we’ve been in a constant wave of crisis after crisis, change after change, seismic shift after seismic shift for more than two years. When the world has been uncertain for so long, even the best of leaders can struggle.

We’ve been in a constant wave of crisis after crisis, change after change, seismic shift after seismic shift for more than two years.

For those of you who have heard my Leading Through Chaos keynote and/or workshop, you know I talk a good bit about self-awareness. I believe it is the differentiator between leaders who are just getting by and leaders who are thriving,

And dialing up self-awareness is the answer to my client’s question. In order to lead effectively right now, leaders must develop an even deeper sense of self-awareness than ever before. Here are three suggestions I gave my client to make that happen. Maybe they will help you, too.

Three Ways toTh Be a More Self-Aware Leader

  1. Make time for quiet. In order to cultivate deeper self-awareness, you have to carve out the time and space to be….well…aware. Close your door for 10 minutes. Turn off your phone. Turn off the music. And just start paying attention to what you notice. Most of us have a very hard time doing this because we work at such an intense, fast pace that stillness and silence feel like a foreign land. It’s difficult to be self-aware if you don’t actually make time for it. This is not supposed to be productive time, it is time for paying attention to you: how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking about, how you’ve handled the day so far. This few minutes of quiet self-reflection pays huge dividends in getting a clear picture of how you are leading in real time.

  2. Determine your personal tolerance for change and uncertainty as a constant and the flexible thinking they require. Not everyone is comfortable operating in uncertainty, especially the kind that seems to last forever. If your personal tolerance for it is low and your capacity for flexible thinking is limited, you’ll have a difficult time managing your own stress levels, creating strategic solutions and leading your team through our current business landscape. The great news is there are executive coaches who specialize in helping leaders expand their tolerance for uncertainty and develop more flexible thinking. I’m one of them. With expanded capacities in these areas, you will begin feeling less stressed and start embracing the nimbleness required of successful leaders.

  3. Listen. Then listen some more. A leader can’t be self-aware in a vacuum. Specifically, ask for and listen to feedback from others about you. Often the way we see ourselves and the way others see us don’t match up. The only way to find out how others see us, how aware we are of how we impact and influence others, is to ask. Resist the temptation to ask the people who will tell you what you want to hear because that won’t help you at all. Instead, use the famed approach of Mayor Ed Koch and ask literally anyone “How am I doing?” Be prepared to listen. Especially to the feedback you don’t like. That’s a challenging request, I know, but successful leaders do challenging things. Ask a trusted advisor if they see validity in the feedback you receive, and if so, formulate a plan for acting on it.

The thing about self-awareness is, there’s no destination; no place where you arrive and don’t have to work at it anymore. It’s a constant pursuit. If you’d like a resource to help you do that, I’d love to invite you to take my Leadership Communication Styles quiz.

In just 10 minutes, you’ll learn about your preferred way of communicating, your strengths and your challenges. Plus, you’ll learn how to better communicate with those styles that are different from yours. You can take that quiz here:


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