True leadership is about who you are


Self-Awareness in Leadership: The Importance of Knowing Yourself

True leadership begins with self-awareness, as it is impossible to lead others effectively without first understanding oneself

As a leader, you’re probably used to juggling a lot of different responsibilities. From managing your team to making important decisions, there’s always something on your plate. But have you ever stopped to consider how self-awareness could help you be a better leader?

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It might sound like a touchy-feely concept, but the truth is that self-awareness is a critical skill for leaders to develop. Here’s why:

  • Better relationships: When you’re self-aware, you’re able to understand how your actions impact others. This can help you build stronger relationships with your team members and other stakeholders.
  • Improved decision-making: By understanding your own biases and tendencies, you will make more informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls.
  • Reduced stress and burnout: Self-awareness helps to  manage your own emotions and stress levels, which is essential for avoiding burnout and staying effective as a leader.

So, in this post, we’re going to explore the concept of self-awareness and how it can benefit you as a leader. We’ll cover different types of self-awareness, tips for developing self-awareness, and common barriers to overcome. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of how self-awareness can help you lead more effectively. Let’s get started!


What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. As a leader, it’s an essential skill to have because it allows you to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics and make informed decisions. Here are some of the different types of self-awareness and why they matter for leadership:

Emotional self-awareness

Emotional self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions. This is important for leaders because emotions have a big impact on team dynamics and decision-making. By being aware of your own emotions, you can better manage them and avoid making decisions based solely on how you’re feeling in the moment.

Social self-awareness

Social self-awareness is the ability to understand how you come across to others. This includes being aware of your body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues. As a leader, it’s important to be socially aware because it will help you build trust and rapport with your team members.

Cognitive self-awareness

Cognitive self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own cognitive processes, such as your thoughts, beliefs, and biases. This is important for leaders because our cognitive processes can influence our decision-making and perceptions of others. By being aware of our own biases and tendencies, we make more informed and objective decisions.

The benefits of self-awareness for leaders

As a leader, developing self-awareness will bring a number of benefits to your work and personal life. Here are some of the ways that knowing yourself can help you become a better leader:

Build better relationships with team members

When you’re self-aware, you’re able to recognize and manage your own emotions, which help you communicate more effectively with your team members. You’re also able to understand how your actions impact others and adjust your behavior accordingly. This can help you build stronger relationships with your team members, which is critical for a productive and positive work environment. If you would like to read more about creating stronger relationships, you should consider reading: Building And Maintaining Strong Work Relationships


Make better decisions and communicate more effectively

By developing cognitive self-awareness, you’re able to recognize your own biases and tendencies. This helps to make more informed decisions and communicate more effectively with others. You’re also able to understand how your own emotions and nonverbal cues might impact others, which can help you communicate more clearly and avoid misunderstandings.

Manage stress and avoid burnout

Leadership can be a stressful job, and self-awareness will help you manage that stress and avoid burnout. By being aware of your own stress triggers and emotional responses, you can take steps to manage your stress levels and prevent burnout. This might include things like practicing mindfulness or seeking out support from a coach or therapist.

How to develop self-awareness as a leader

Now that you know the benefits of self-awareness as a leader, you may be wondering how to develop this important skill. Here are some practical tips to get you started:

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment. This can help you develop self-awareness by helping you become more attuned to your own thoughts and emotions. Try incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily routine, such as meditation, yoga, or mindful breathing exercises.

Seek feedback from others

Getting feedback from others can be a valuable tool in developing self-awareness. Ask your team members, colleagues, or a coach for honest feedback about your leadership style, communication skills, and overall effectiveness as a leader. Be open to constructive criticism and take steps to address areas for improvement.

Reflect on your own thoughts and behaviors

Take time to reflect on your own thoughts and behaviors. Journaling, for example, can be a great way to reflect on your emotions and experiences. You can also reflect on your own behavior in specific situations, thinking about what worked well and what you could do differently in the future.


Overcoming common barriers to self-awareness

Developing self-awareness as a leader is not always easy. There are several common barriers that can make it difficult to develop this important skill. Here are some of the most common obstacles to self-awareness and strategies for overcoming them:


When receiving feedback or criticism, it’s common for leaders to become defensive and feel like their character is being attacked. However, defensiveness might  prevent you from truly hearing and understanding the feedback you are receiving. Try reframing negative feedback as opportunities for growth and focus on the specific behaviors or actions you can change, rather than taking it as a personal attack.


It is difficult to accept that we have flaws or areas for improvement. However, denying these aspects of ourselves will prevent us from developing self-awareness. Instead of denying negative feedback or criticism, try acknowledging and accepting it. This can help you move past denial and begin working on areas for improvement.

Fear of vulnerability

Many leaders are hesitant to be vulnerable and share their weaknesses or struggles with others. However, vulnerability is a key aspect of developing self-awareness. Try seeking out a trusted mentor or coach who can provide support and guidance as you work on developing your self-awareness. Additionally, try practicing vulnerability with your team members by sharing your own experiences and struggles.


Conclusion: Embrace the Journey of Self-Awareness

Congratulations on taking the time to learn about the power of self-awareness for leadership! I hope you found this post informative and inspiring. As a leader, you have the opportunity to cultivate self-awareness and use it to improve your relationships with team members, make better decisions, communicate more effectively, and avoid burnout.

By embracing the journey of self-awareness and committing to ongoing growth and improvement, you can become a more effective and fulfilled leader. Best of luck on your self-awareness journey!

Good book to read

I am very inspired by Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee,a  book that explores how leaders can use emotional intelligence (EI) to create positive and productive work environments.

EI is the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions and those of others. The authors argue that EI is crucial for effective leadership because it influences how leaders communicate, motivate and inspire their followers. They also claim that EI can be learned and developed through practice and feedback.

The main message of the book is that primal leadership is about using emotional intelligence to connect with people’s hearts as well as their minds. By doing so, leaders can create resonance – a state of harmony – that unleashes the best in themselves and others.

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