Know Thyself: The Importance Of Self-Awareness by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

There are different ways of experiencing ourselves and our impact on the world around us. As a leader, one of the most important ways to experience ourselves is through healthy self-awareness.

Self-awareness is not the same as being conscious of ourselves in the world, although this is a part of the entire picture. It is also not just about being introspective and reflective on what we have done.

Instead, self-awareness is the ability to see our actions, thoughts, behaviors, values, and emotions and how they align with the standards we have set for ourselves. It is not about “fake it till we make it” or presenting a particular posture or attitude to those around us. It is about being authentic and aligning our internal aspirations and standards and our visible behaviors.

The Two Sides Of Self-Awareness

Tasha Eurich, Ph.D., has studied the traits of leaders and has identified two different categories of self-awareness. The first is the ability to look inward and be clear on our beliefs, values, passions, and beliefs and how they impact our external environment. This external environment also includes the people around us and how our internal clarity of sight about ourselves aligns with what we do. Dr. Eurich calls this internal self-awareness.

Leaders with this internal self-awareness are seen as consistent, predictable, and trustworthy. They are also seen as creating a clear vision and mission for teams and the company.

The second type of self-awareness is the ability to understand and accept how others see us. This allows a leader to step out of his or her role and see how employees or colleagues may view their decisions, actions, and choices. These are leaders who are seen as having an understanding of employees and being empathetic and caring. This is identified as external self-awareness.

The Big Picture

When combined, these two types of self-awareness allow leaders to self-evaluate and also accurately and honestly accept feedback from others. In combining these two sources of information, leaders can avoid getting caught in an echo chamber or simply listening to the internal or external information that matches the image they want to put forth in the world.

One of the most effective ways to build internal and external self-awareness is by continually looking for authentic information. Checking to make sure we are in alignment with our beliefs, values, aspirations, and ethics when we are in a leadership role is critical. Equally important is listening and accepting feedback from those at different levels in the workplace and using this feedback to become more sensitive to how our actions, messages, and choices impact those around us.