Which leadership skill is the most important?
The answer is probably dependent on your leadership style and experience. I think, however, many would agree self-awareness is the leadership skill that garners the least attention.
While there is not a single formula for being a good leader, self-awareness seems to be one component that is common among all good leaders.
Just how important is it to be self-aware?
What is Self-Awareness?
One writer’s definition of self-awareness is being conscious of what you’re good at while acknowledging what you still have to learn. A second writer suggests it is an awareness of how one comes across and is perceived by others. A third defines it as knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions.
All these definitions are appropriate. They all point to two distance aspects of self-awareness: an internal aspect and an external aspect.
Internally, the reason self-awareness is important because it is how we notice and monitor our inner world. We notice what our reactions are to certain situations, and when they re-occur, we automatically adjust our actions accordingly. We can proactively adjust our thoughts depending on specific circumstances.
Externally, self-awareness is a key part of our emotional intelligence. By being able to manage our emotional reactions, we more easily gain the trust of the people we manage. Knowing what you are good at and being aware of how others perceive you is a display of openness that people find trustworthy.
For example, you know you have a sense of humor, so you are comfortable injecting humor in tense situations knowing it will relax everyone and help them think rationally.
The Confusion of Self-Awareness
Being self-aware is often confused with self-centeredness and introspection. Being self-centered is taking the concern and focus on yourself too far. The result is a total focus on your wellbeing and little or no regard for others.
Introspection is the process of examining your thoughts, feelings, and motives. It can lead to self-awareness or have our attention focused on ourselves. Self-awareness is the actions following introspection where this awareness leads our behavior to meet some internal standard we have created for our self.
How to Cultivate Self-Awareness
- Create space for yourself to connect with yourself through meditations, reading, and journaling.
- Perform daily self-reflections.
- Practice being a good listener by intentionally being present when talking with someone.
- Seek our different perspectives by talking to people you don’t normally interact with and by asking for feedback from the people you manage.
Romans 12:3 says.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
You have been made by God, so you need to be aware of yourself and see yourself exactly the way you are. The third part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is to guide us through the trials in this life and that guidance comes through our consciousness. We need to be in touch with ourselves to receive these messages.
Our humility, which is part of our walk with Christ, is found in knowing what we are like and who we are as image-bearers of God. We need to be in touch with our egos and our natural tendencies to control them and maintain this humility.
As with most things, too much can be bad. We are to trust in Jesus and not our selves. Being self-aware is good when we know who we are and can identify when all is not well allowing us to take the appropriate actions. But when this awareness excludes God and other people, it becomes damaging.
Self-awareness is part of a balancing act. It needs to be combined with listening, motivating, empathy, and relationship building to mold us into effective leaders.
Self-awareness is God-given and is for our use to connect with Him.
It is through self-awareness we can rejoice in how wonderfully we are made and how we can glorify God in our leadership positions.