Quite frequently in my trainings I notice that certain leaders become uncomfortable, defensive or combative when I suggest that they take a look at themselves and their behaviors. They’ll list their accomplishments, defend their tough decisions, justify negative behaviors or blame others for things that went wrong. Sometimes I get dead silence or resistance because they aren’t comfortable looking at themselves. It can be hard to look in the mirror.
Self-awareness is, understandably, a somewhat unusual concept for many leaders because it’s not emphasized or practiced in our workplaces. We tend to focus on results rather than people so, naturally, leaders gauge how good they are by the kind of results they get rather than how healthy, insightful or empathic they are.
Most leaders are simply responsible for being authoritative, highly productive and making decisions that make money without ever having to take a look at what kind of people they are and how they affect others. Here are ten characteristics of leaders who lack self-awareness:
- Any problems are due to other people’s shortcomings.
- They don’t have a sense of how their actions affect others.
- They haven’t worked out their own stuff and it tends to get on their employees.
- They almost exclusively make decisions based on their own perspective and needs.
- They don’t ask for feedback from others because they know they’re doing a great job.
- They get upset when someone questions what they do.
- They haven’t found deep personal fulfillment and happiness yet.
- Their ego drives their actions.
- They worry about how events affect them but not others.
- They have difficulty praising the great work others do.
Think about these ten points and whether you know someone who practices any of them. If you do, it doesn’t mean they’re bad or wrong, it just shows to what extent we’ve glorified the image of the strong, productive and decisive leader who runs around all day barking orders and never has to think of who might be getting hurt.
Self-awareness is about being comfortable with who you are because you’ve reached a point of genuine health, balance and understanding of yourself and others. The key point is that self-awareness leads to treating yourself and others well. The happier you are with yourself the more likely you’ll be to treat your employees with empathy and kindness.
Self-aware leaders move beyond the need to appear powerful or trumpet how great they are to simply being good people. What ideas do you have to encourage more self-awareness in leadership?