Leaders Need Strong Self-Awareness

In an article out today in the MIT Sloan Management Review (subscription required), authors Ginka Toegel and Jean-Louis Barsoux discuss the importance of self-awareness among business leaders.   

The article cites a survey of 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council that rated self-awareness as the most important competency for leaders to develop, since, after all, leaders can hardly leverage their strengths, or compensate for their weaknesses, if they don’t know what they are. This is consistent with Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence competencies, where self-awareness is the fundamental building block of an emotionally intelligent leader.  It’s a given that all leaders have blind spots.  What are you doing to identify yours?

Consider the following approaches:

  1. Do certain themes or trends emerge from the feedback you’ve received over the years?  While you may not agree with it, or discount it as being unique to a particular situation, if you hear it again and again, it doesn’t really matter – that is how you are being perceived.
  2. Ask for constructive feedback from colleagues in a 360 review.  If your workplace doesn’t offer such a tool, copy a balanced leadership assessment out of a book like Robert Cooper’s Executive E.Q., or Relly Nadler’s Leading With Emotional Intelligence, and ask your colleagues to rate you on each of the competencies.
  3. If that’s too formal for you, try asking just one question of trusted colleagues – what am I doing that gets in the way of the things that I say are important to me?

As Socrates reportedly said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  Give it a try.


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