04 Aug 3 Questions to Gauge Your Self-Awareness as a Leader
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Aristotle
The biggest difference between a leader and a great leader is self-awareness. Simply said, they know who they are and as importantly they know who they aren’t. While shifting ever so slightly in the last decade with some of our collaborative millennials, there is still an overwhelming feeling, in most management and executive ranks, that they must have all of the answers to be worthy of their position. It’s quite amusing because every last one of us knows that we don’t have all of the answers and we see clearly in others that they don’t have them all. What would happen if we just had the courage to admit it? We would be less stressed and we would be better leaders, that’s what.
Self-awareness requires us to be conscious of ourselves. Because we spend so much time in our unconscious beliefs, behaviors and patterns, just getting through life on auto-pilot, we rarely take the time to examine those same beliefs, behaviors and patterns to see if they are helping or hurting us. A conscious leader is willing to ask themselves the tough questions to be more effective, to build stronger relationships and to create an environment that serves everyone, not just themselves. They are willing to acknowledge when they don’t know the answer. They are willing to ask for help.
We are all at different levels of self-awareness and as cliché as it may sound it is a life long journey. The more self-aware you become the easier and richer the journey will be for you and everyone around you.
Start with these three questions to gauge your level of self-awareness. If you do not immediately know the answers to these questions it is time to spend some time getting to know you. It will be really hard for others to know who you are, until you know yourself.
- What are your 3 biggest strengths and 3 biggest areas of growth?
While a wildly popular, although usually quite useless, interview question, this is an important life question. Do you know what you do really well and are you consciously using those talents? If not, why not? What else would be possible if you did? Likewise, do you know what your weak areas are and are you working a plan to shore up those areas? Knowing your weak areas isn’t helpful unless you are willing to do something about them. Maybe you lack the courage to voice your opinion in meetings, fearful of looking bad in front of others if your idea is rejected. To gain confidence you might submit your idea ahead of time so that it is already on the agenda. Small wins along the way will allow you to step further out of your comfort zone and tackle your most challenging areas.
- When was the last time you asked someone for feedback, and what did you do with it?
Notice that it says the last time you ASKED for feedback. Most of us don’t necessarily like getting feedback and rarely ask for it. Yet the only way to be truly self-aware is to find out how your perceptions of yourself, match up with the perceptions of other. If they don’t align, others may be having a completely different experience than you think you are providing. For example, you may think that you are a great listener, however your team members may be experiencing something completely different and they are frustrated that you interrupt them all the time. We all have blind spots and the only way we become aware of what is in our blind spots is to have someone we trust to give us feedback. Not all feedback is useful, however a conscious leader is able to discern what is helpful and will make changes in their behavior based on that feedback.
- What is the last personal development book (podcast/video/class) that you’ve read and what did you change based on the information?
You will not develop self-awareness without actually working on yourself. The most self-aware leaders are always learning and growing. We can go unconscious in front of the TV for hours a day, however most people will tell you they don’t have time to read a personal leadership book for 10-15 minutes a day. To become more self-aware, we have to first admit to ourselves that we do not have all of the answers. Reading alone however isn’t the key to self-awareness, it is applying what you’ve learned. Find one good idea and make it your job to practice that all day long.
If you want to be a great leader, whether that’s leading a team at work, your family, or yourself, make self-awareness a priority. It can be tough work because you may not like all of the realizations that awareness brings. Be open to it and watch your life take off in a positive direction.