By the time you read this blog, the chaos heart of the holidays will be just about behind us. In fact, some will have moved on to reflecting on the past year and creating intentions for the new year—new beginnings, approaches and behaviors. It’s also an ideal time to take your thoughts on leadership back to the basics and reflect on an essential characteristic of all effective leaders: self-awareness.
The absolute core of great leadership development begins with a measure of one’s level of self-awareness. Unfortunately, many leaders dismiss self-awareness as irrelevant or insignificant to becoming a truly great leader. Nothing could be more untrue. In fact, the higher up you go in an organization, the less important it is to do great work and the more important it is to do great work through others. That type of influence and persuasion stems from your level of self-awareness. Still not convinced? Consider the following as you resolve to become an even better leader in 2016:
- Fly Your Weak Flag: In other words, own what you aren’t good at—**insert gasp here**—and surround yourself with complementary skills and leadership. No one is good at everything and no one expects you to be. Instead, take time to build a clear picture of your strengths, challenges and potential blind spots. Use that information as guideposts for what you leverage in others and connect with them in a way that creates powerful results.
- Help Me Help You: As a CEO or senior executive, you aren’t a “boss,” you are a leader. As a leader, sustainable success won’t involve telling someone what to do and expecting it will get done; not to mention getting it done in a way that drives business results and organizational objectives. Knowing the personalities of the members of your team, as well as what motivates them and their strengths and challenges, will help you connect each person to the work that needs to be done and why. But before you can do that for anyone else, you must do it for yourself. It just doesn’t work any other way.
- Power Ain’t Always Pretty: The ability to not just hear others’ perspectives, but to understand and react to them—without being defensive—is vital to successful leadership (and life in general). That ability points to your capacity for empathy. Why does that matter? In recent years, two different scientific studies—one that looked at the impact of power in an organization upon behavior and one that looked at the impact of power on brain activity—uncovered the same ugly truth: Power diminishes your ability to be truly empathetic. For CEOs and their executive teams, the EQ trifecta includes empathy, compassion and self-awareness— characteristics that are foundational to managing internal conflicts, being resilient to stress, and having an overall sense of well-being. Without them, CEOs and senior executives have a hard time relating to each other and being agile enough to understand, adapt and solve the unpredictable challenges an organization undoubtedly faces.
I understand that for many, “self-awareness” sounds like psychobabble jargon. The key to your leadership growth and success is accepting that as an old, irrelevant way of thinking. Auld Lang Syne, dear leader. May old ways of leadership be forgot and self-awareness ring true for all. Happy New Year, everyone.