Self-awareness: a critical practice for leaders

Posted on Posted in Leadership

In the last six months, I learned some of the benefits of self-awareness.  I learned that it was not enough to be self-aware, but that the awareness had to promote actions specifically targeted at addressing the challenges, limitations, curiosities, or strengths revealed after gaining awareness.

In the last six months, I also learned that self-awareness came natural for me, but appeared to be a skill absent in the lives of man.  I have watched folks spend a great deal of time and energy doing one or more of the following: blaming others, employing guilt or shame tactics toward others, making routine efforts to force others to accept and promote their ideas, and deflecting responsibilities for their circumstances on others.  I decided that their behaviors resulted from an inability or failure to be self-aware.  Again, I realized that self-awareness was not a human characteristic handed out equally by the Almighty.  Self-awareness, in my mind, only became a life skill when a person was given opportunities to practice the skill. My village of parents, close friends, and mentors never allowed me to miss opportunities to consider my efforts or my shortcomings that contributed to my outcomes.  In the last six months, I found myself frustrated by folks whose villagers never trained them in the practice of self-awareness.  Instead of the villager establishing an expectation of self-reflection that leads to self-awareness, the village accepted or created excuses for the apparent lack of preparedness, the lack of production, the lack of execution, or the lack of passion and gratitude for the privilege to stand in the moment.  There appeared to be a lack of curiosity evidenced by resistance to coaching or efforts to delve deeper into purported areas interest or the irritating stench of arrogance that oozed with entitlement.  There was a sort of codependency between the unaware and the enabling villager that led to the need for coddling and protectiveness that ignored the negative impacts of erecting these shields.  The placement of these shields inevitably had a negative impact on the person and the community.  When I got to the crux of the observations, the common thread was a lack of self-awareness.

Here are the things I know now about self-awareness:

  1. Self-awareness demands accountability for and ownership of your own mess.
  2. Self-awareness derives some type of response after there is ownership of your actions, missteps, or strengths.
  3. A self-aware person recognizes that each action or behavior involves a decision and a choice. The person chooses to seek ways to increase their knowledge or find ways to improve their skill sets. The person could also find ways to contribute in a differently to the situation or the person could opt to find ways to avoid any situation that challenges them or exposes blindspots.

As I write this, I am struck with another question: Where is the line between the person absent self-awareness and the person who is self-aware yet chooses passive-aggressive, bullying tactics to cover insecurities?  Hmmm.

That question will inform my work and thoughts this coming week.  I will explore this question with my peers and mentors.  I believe that each of us needs to spend time in self-reflection on a regular basis in order to attain this goal of self-awareness.  I think we each should explore our life circumstances to determine how our behaviors contributed might have to our circumstance.  If it is determined that I didn’t control or contribute to the outcome, I consider whether there was anything I could have done to change my current circumstance for the better.  Sometimes I have found that my situation might have been different if I had done something differently like studied more, chosen my words more carefully, or trusted someone else more skilled in the area than me to contribute.  I learned that self-awareness requires at least two things on a personal level – honesty and fewer actions grounded in prideful, self-centered decisions.

The process of becoming self-aware can give rise to varied emotions that may actually be the reason many folks avoid the realities of self-awareness.  I encourage you to reflect and let others support you in the journey to self-awareness.  I encourage you to find a method of self-reflection that frees you to open up and share your innermost thoughts and possible responses.  I use journaling and my weekly blog posts to self-reflection.  I use conversations with a few family members, a handful of friends, and mentors to evaluate many of my life situations to promote self-awareness.  The journey continues to help me find more comfort in uncomfortable moments.  I have developed more coping skills to enhance my communication skills and my ability to build more meaningful relationships.  I have also experienced personal and professional developmental that reminds me that life learning is a good thing.  I have also overcome fears, insecurities, and limitations because I am courageous enough to reflect and become more self-aware. I hope that more folks, especially those in leadership roles, will choose self-reflection and become more self-aware.

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