Why you need to be self-aware to be a successful leader

The ability to monitor yourself is one of the most important traits you can have as a leader. Here’s how to improve your self-awareness

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Business News Daily

What is the most important characteristic of a leader? Some might say it’s integrity – others it’s being a good motivator – but psychologist and author Sherrie Campbell believes that self-awareness is the key factor in leadership success.

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to monitor your own emotions and reactions; it allows you to know your strengths, weaknesses, triggers, motivators and other characteristics. Being self-aware means that you take a deeper look at your feelings, why you feel a certain way, and how your feelings may turn into reactions.

How important is self-awareness in leadership and business?

Without self-awareness, leaders can appear a bit arrogant; if you cannot be personable, or know when you are crossing a line, how can you possibly lead a company? The need for self-awareness extends to other business situations, too. Think about how crucial self-awareness is in giving sales pitches, or handling feedback, for instance; if you are not aware of how you may react, or do not have a way to prevent a negative reaction, you could end up in trouble.

Self-awareness is also helpful for presentations. Many people get nervous when delivering pitches, speeches or even notes at a meeting; however, self-awareness can help you in these situations. If you use too many filler words during presentations, for example, practice your presentation and have someone clap every time you use a word you want to avoid. Or, if you tend to sway or pace while presenting, try to limit your ability to move by sitting down at the table with your client, or even just using a podium. Self-awareness can lead to self-improvement in these areas.

What are self-awareness skills?

In addition to being aware of your own emotions, self-awareness involves knowing how you will react to others. When you fine-tune your self-awareness abilities you will become more empathetic because of the heightened emotional intelligence that comes with self-awareness. You also will be more adaptable because, if you know how you will react, you might be able to avoid a tough situation by taking a walk or even just a few deep breaths.

Self-awareness can also improve your confidence. By being open about your flaws, needs and strengths, you will strengthen your ability to be vulnerable, which allows for stronger relationships in the workplace.

“Self-awareness keeps us grounded, attuned and focused,” says Sherrie, author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. “When leaders are grounded, they are able to be efficient and deliberate in staying on task, and attuned to those around them. Leaders who have the ability to control their minds and emotions help to guide those around them to develop their own self-knowledge and success.”

Learning to be aware of yourself isn’t always easy, but mastering this skill can help you become a much more effective leader. Sherrie shared these seven tips for improving self-awareness. 

Keep an open mind. When you can regulate your own emotional world, you can be attuned to others’ emotions. To be a successful leader you have to be curious about new people and all they have to offer; this shows that you can be a team player and don’t need to be number one. The more open you are to others, the more creative you become. 

Be mindful of your strengths and weaknesses. Self-aware individuals know their own strengths and weaknesses and can work from that space. Being mindful of this means that you know when to reach out for assistance and when you are good on your own.

Stay focused. An important part of being a leader is making connections, but you can’t make those connections if you’re distracted. Train yourself to focus for long periods of time without getting sucked into social media, emails and other small distractions.

Set boundaries. A leader needs to have strong boundaries in place. Be warm toward others, but say ‘No’ when you need to. Be serious about your work and your passions, and keep your boundaries firm, to maintain the integrity of your goals and the work you put into them.  

Know your emotional triggers. Self-aware individuals can identify their emotions as they are happening. Don’t repress your emotions, or deny their causes; instead, be able to bend and flex with them, and fully process them before communicating with others.

Embrace your intuition. Successful people trust their instincts and take the risks associated with them. Your instincts are based on the survival of the fittest, and the need to succeed; they tell you what to do next. Learn to trust your intuition.

Practice self-discipline. Good leaders tend to be disciplined in every area of their lives. It is a character trait that provides them with the enduring focus necessary for strong leadership.

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