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What Self-Awareness Means for Leaders


Today's most resilient, successful and self-aware leaders know that having a positive, emotionally healthy environment is a non-negotiable for high-performing organizations.


According to Korn-Ferry, self-awareness is the capacity to tune into our own feelings, knee-jerk responses, inner signals, and recognize how all of these things affect you and how you lead. It's a critical area of mastery for leaders at all levels, especially in today's volatile environment.


By recognizing and understanding what's happening within ourselves, we become more aware of how our thoughts and emotions show up in our own behavior and positively or negatively impact others.


As a self-aware leader, you can quickly and accurately assess how and why you are thinking and feeling and whether it serves what you are trying to accomplish. You become more aware of your contribution to how others see and respond to you, so you can adjust yourself accordingly.


Because you are honest about your strengths and challenges, your self-confidence is relaxed, and you welcome opposing points of view. You address the good and the bad with openness, self-assurance, and empathy, leading your people with transparent authenticity.

Additional research by Korn Ferry found that, among leaders with strong self-awareness, 92% had teams with high energy and high performance.

To illustrate what I mean, here's a great real-world example of a leader who lacks self-awareness: The CEO of a fast-growing start-up is a control freak. This shows up most in the way he communicates. He is a great visionary but insists on "controlling the narrative" at every turn.


He only listens to people who tell him what he wants to hear and refuses to acknowledge, much less address, the impact of inevitable challenges on his team. He plays favorites, advancing only those he likes. When he makes mistakes, he blames others rather than accept responsibility. If directly confronted with facts, he ignores the person, gets angry or tells them (and everyone else) that their negative attitude is the real problem. Currently, his company is struggling to stay alive.


In today’s Covid and Great Resignation influenced work environment, this kind of leadership can be lethal. Team members see a leader like this as completely out of touch with reality at best. At worst, they see him as incompetent. When a leader isn’t trusted, no one is inspired to do their best work, top talent leaves, and negative financial results soon follow.


Additional research by Korn Ferry found that, among leaders with strong self-awareness, 92% had teams with high energy and high performance. These leaders know that having a positive, emotionally healthy environment is a non-negotiable for high-performing organizations right now. Their high degree of self-awareness makes them consummate at building trust and drawing out the very best in their people.


In sharp contrast, leaders low in self-awareness created negative climates 78% of the time. Team members feel the weight of working in an oppressive environment and if they can, they leave.


As I said in this post [INSERT POST LINK], self-awareness isn’t a one and done thing; it is a constant pursuit, especially for leaders. I share some tips on becoming more self-aware here. You can also find out your Leadership Communication Style with this quiz. Knowing your style and the style of those you lead is invaluable in becoming a more self-aware leader.