In the realm of leadership, self-awareness is an invaluable quality that sets exceptional managers apart. However, true self-awareness is rare, as many individuals overlook the importance of introspection and understanding their own values, goals, and interactions with others. But first, let's get it straight there are two dimensions of self-awareness—internal and external.
Understanding Internal and External Self-Awareness
Internal self-awareness refers to an individual's level of happiness and satisfaction, while external self-awareness pertains to their level of empathy and ability to optimize interactions with others. It is crucial to recognize that proficiency in one dimension does not guarantee competence in the other. Both aspects require continuous effort, particularly for those in leadership positions. Contrary to common belief, self-awareness does not automatically increase with increased knowledge of oneself. In fact, overconfidence often leads to inflated self-perceptions and an inaccurate understanding of one's skills and abilities.
"The most effective leaders are those who are deeply self-aware and who use that awareness to guide their decisions and actions." - Brené Brown
The Habits to Nurture Self-Awareness
Regular practice makes progress, that's why effective leaders make self-awareness a habit:
Step 1: Seeking Feedback from Loving Critics To enhance external self-awareness, it is essential to actively seek feedback from individuals who have your best interests at heart and are willing to provide honest insights. These "loving critics" can offer valuable perspectives on your strengths, blind spots, and areas for improvement. Embrace their feedback as an opportunity for growth and learning, fostering an environment of open communication and trust.
Step 2: Practicing Mindfulness for Internal Self-Awareness Mindfulness is a powerful tool for developing internal self-awareness. By cultivating the ability to be fully present and aware of the present moment without being overwhelmed by external distractions, one can better understand their emotions, thoughts, and decision-making processes. Mindfulness acts as a pause button, allowing the rational mind to come forward and prevent emotions from dictating behavior based on biases, assumptions, fears, or unrealistic expectations.
The Significance of Mindfulness in Leadership
Mindfulness is not just a buzzword; it offers practical benefits that positively impact leadership effectiveness. It enables leaders to focus on the task at hand, rather than dwelling on the past or being consumed by future anxieties. By practicing mindfulness, leaders become less reactive, more attentive, and less likely to act based on outdated habits or unverified assumptions. Mindfulness empowers leaders to be fully present, giving their best to each task, person, and situation, ultimately fostering personal and professional growth.
Getting Started with Mindfulness to Nurture your Self-Awareness
Simple Strategies for Beginners: If you are new to mindfulness, the following suggestions will help you embark on this transformative practice:
Three-Breath Exercise: Begin by taking three conscious breaths, focusing your attention solely on the breath. With the first breath, bring your awareness to your breath. During the second breath, allow your body to relax. Finally, with the third breath, ask yourself what is important for you to accomplish in the present moment. This exercise activates the rational part of the brain, facilitating mindfulness.
Consistent Practice: Treat mindfulness like a gym workout for your mind. Start with just two minutes of practice every day, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable. Consistency is key to experiencing the positive changes that mindfulness can bring.
Self-awareness is a fundamental attribute of effective leaders. By developing both internal and external self-awareness, leaders can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their interactions with others. Seeking feedback from trusted individuals and practicing mindfulness provide powerful tools to enhance self-awareness, leading to improved decision-making, stronger relationships, and overall leadership growth. Embrace the journey of self-awareness, and witness the transformative impact it can have on your professional and personal life.
"A leader who is not self-aware is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly without a clear direction or purpose." - Margaret Wheatley
Bonus: Listen to Joshua Berry on the Growth Hacking Culture Podcast on this episode about The Business of Doing Good How Companies Can Create Value and Make a Positive Impact