The Most Important Leadership Trait May Surprise You

Powerful, Decisive, Analytical, Driven

When you ask someone to list important leadership characteristics, these words come to mind. One key characteristic is missing from this list, however. In fact, it may be the *most* important one: Self Awareness.

Why is Self Awareness Essential for Leadership?

A leader can excel in their field, build an impressive resume, develop insight, and even be charming. But, self-aware leaders are emotionally mature. They accept that they have strengths and weaknesses. And instead of trying to cover up their weaknesses, they strive to understand them. They develop skills to deal with them or make sure they have a team that compliments them.

According to Psychology Today: “Self-knowledge and the relational competencies they’re linked with are central to a CEO’s ability to formulate, articulate and lead a strategic vision for a motivated, energized organization.”

Dr. John Hausknecht, Cornell Assistant Professor also suggests that “Executives who are aware of their weaknesses are often better able to hire subordinates who perform well in areas in which the leader lacks acumen.”

While you might not have been able to pinpoint it at the time, everyone experiences this in their own life. Reflect on the people in your life that you love to work for and who motivate you. Next, think about those who do not. The best leaders are self-aware and empathetic towards their teammates and everyone around them.

Take away the foundational trait of self awareness and the remaining structure of leadership tumbles.

If it’s so Important, Why do Many Executives Lack this Trait?

Once leaders find themselves in influential roles, it can be tempting to sweep aside areas that don’t seem urgent. They may feel like negative feedback and coaching will hurt their leadership or compensation goals. Other times it can be explained by psychology of people when they gain power.

Studies show that increased power diminishes the ability to be empathetic, and increases an individual’s assumption that their network’s insights match their own. These assumptions give the individual a skewed perception of those around them. This causes and exaggerates barriers between leaders and their teams.

How To Develop Self Awareness As a Leader

Self awareness is, somewhat ironically, best developed with the help of others. Family and friends are often too close to a leader to help them develop this skill. It’s a job that’s best left to professionals.

Don’t conjure up a picture of an imposing doctor asking you to sit on the couch and spill your family history. Today there are many options for executive coaching and feedback. Leaders should view these as tools to help them excel. In fact, they are as essential as any other strategy planning session or company resource.

360 Degree Feedback with coaching is an option that is worth considering. Collaborating with a certified coach in a completely confidential manner, unencumbered by any organizational politics and/or interpersonal power dynamics, is one of the best ways to learn and grow as a leader. Leaders gain clarity and insight when given access to a wide variety of honest feedback and perspectives from 360 Degree Feedback They can then perceive how they’re seen by everyone around them. This includes peers, subordinates, and customers. Paired with the support of a 360 Degree Feedback Coach, this can help develop that essential, but elusive, Self Awareness that all leadership needs.

Do you want to schedule a 15-minute consultation to see if we are the best 360 partner for your organization? Contact us.

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