Being Self-Aware Is Critical For Leaders, Both For Professional Success And Personal Satisfaction

“Remember, your perception of the world is a reflection of your state of consciousness,” said Ekhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher, and bestselling author.   

There is immense truth in this simple statement. You become what you imagine yourself to be. But, if you don’t know who you are, you cannot control the direction your life takes. 

The ability to monitor and manage yourself is one of the most important traits you can have as a leader. Understanding yourself – your drivers, triggers, likes and dislikes, and values – is critical for you to put your best foot forward and defines how you interact with the people you lead. 

Without a degree of emotional self-awareness, you could react unknowingly and uncontrollably to situations – which can, of course, become detrimental for the organization and erode your authority in the long-run.

Simply defined, self-awareness refers to having a deep understanding of your inner norms, drivers, motivations, beliefs, and preferences, or intuitions. You understand what is happening in your mind in each situation. You can analyse, monitor, or control your reaction to situations and external stimuli.

Here’s What Some Experts Say About Self Awareness: 

Daniel Goleman, author, and psychologist, classified self-awareness as one of the four fundamental capabilities of emotional intelligence and advocated mindfulness to become more aware. Goleman stated, “Self-awareness means the ability to monitor our inner world – our thoughts and feelings.  

Mindfulness is one method for enhancing this essential capacity – it trains our attention to notice subtle, but important signals, and to see thoughts as they arise rather than just being swept away by them.”  

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, co-authors of The Leadership Challenge, researched the impact of that self-awareness and self-management in leaders and found it to be essential for authentic leadership. In fact, they went so far as to caution organizations against hiring individuals based solely on professional excellence, without prioritising personal and social skills. According to them, one sure way to enhance EQ was to become self-aware.

Ultimately, being more self-aware will give you the ability to express yourself in the best possible manner during any situation. You will act consciously, instead of reacting uncontrollably. 

Our self-image is a combination of how we see ourselves and how others perceive us and interact with us. Relying on only our own image of ourselves can lead to challenges in terms of blind spots and hidden aspects about ourselves. 

For leaders, it is important to work on understanding both sides of their self-image. Understanding our inner self makes us happier, and less stressed at work while being aware of the external view of our personality allows us to have a closer and more responsive relationship with our team and other stakeholders. Knowing what our team members think of us can help us cultivate a more open relationship with them.

Heightened self-awareness brings you Confidence and Emotional Intelligence

Knowing yourself allows you to bring a heightened sense of confidence to your leadership. It will enable you to make professional decisions with complete confidence. No more second-guessing your abilities or your reactions in a particular situation; being self-aware will help you analyse your professional options and make decisions based on knowledge rather than gut feel. 

Self-awareness leads to enhancing your emotional intelligence. When you have the ability to be in touch with your emotions, it will automatically make you more aware of and empathetic towards the feelings of others. This amplified EQ will help you achieve success in your role as a leader. 

Self-awareness is a continuous process. 

Some Ways to cultivate Self-awareness  


When we engage in self-evaluation, we can give some thought to whether we are thinking and feeling and acting as we “should” or following our standards and values.

Introspecting constructively about your behaviour in different situations and with different people can provide you with useful inputs. Look for patterns, which could throw some light on why you react or behave in a certain way in certain situations and with certain kinds of people. The main objective is to identify drivers and triggers and then based on that, decide on what is it that you really want to be seen as or want to be like. 

Self-evaluation will help you choose your reaction or response more deliberately in the future in a way that is aligned to who you are and how you want to be perceived. It will also give you areas that you might want to explore further and see how you could change for the better – for better outcomes for you and your organisation. 

Seek Constructive Feedback 

One way to know yourself better is to ask people you trust for their opinion. You can initiate a structured feedback system or ask trusted colleagues for an honest insight into your personality. 

You could also use a tool like 360-degree feedback to find out what your peers, subordinates, and other stakeholders think of you and whether it aligns with what you think of yourself. Incongruence in this can help you identify that areas that you could work on to build greater self-awareness and also better relationships with your team and other stakeholders. 

Low self-awareness tends to breed a certain degree of blindness towards your weaknesses, and feedback is a great way to uncover aspects that could be improved.

Keep An Open Mind

When you have so much on your plate, and experience gives you heightened clarity and overview of situations, it becomes hard to listen patiently and give others a chance. This impatience may keep you boxed inside your own ideas and processes. 

If instead, you make an effort to be open, curious, and patient with other people and their different viewpoints, not only will you come up with better solutions, you will also find it easier to keep in touch with everyone around you, and that will allow you to learn more about yourself.

Hire a Coach

Finally, a sure shot way to dial up your self-awareness quotient is to put yourself in the hands of an executive coach. There are several well-known and researched-backed emotional intelligence assessment tools that can uncover your core traits and bottlenecks. EQ-I 2.0 is one such powerful and scientifically valid and reliable assessment that is popular the world over. Understanding your assessment results with a professional coach can give you a good start on your self-awareness journey. 

Coaching be invaluable in helping you discover yourself, especially when you are in a senior role and have limited people you can share your thoughts with openly. A professional coach can bring in a lot of value in terms of being a sounding board and thinking partner for you. So, this is something I urge you to consider in your personal growth journey as a leader. Of course, I am here to help. 

If you want to understand more about emotional self-awareness and how coaching can help, then do schedule a 15 minutes consultation call by clicking on the link above.