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Self-awareness is a complicated skill for just about everyone. You might think you have a wonderful sense of humor, but your wife begs to differ. And you probably assume you’re doing the best job you can as the leader of your organization, but yet, many of your employees could be completely disengaged.

Self-awareness is an extremely important leadership competency, but it doesn’t receive much attention or focus. Think about it, we have been trained all of our lives to act as if we are the best at what we do. If you admit you have areas that need improvement in your leadership style, your direct reports might lose faith in you as a leader.

I hope you realize that just simply is not true. People, no matter their role or title, always have room to grow. When you simply close out any attempt at self-awareness it can truly impact the way you lead.

For instance, when you’re not self-aware you are probably not as conscious as you could be of how your emotions affect your behavior, particularly toward other people. You are probably not adequately mindful of when you are tired, in an emotional state, or out of touch with your values.

The reality is humans can’t actually be unemotional; emotions are part of our every day experience. Emotions strongly influence actions, and effective leaders are able to balance their emotional responses with clear-headed thinking and analysis. Knowing your emotional state allows you to not overreact emotionally and thereby complicate the situation. In addition, self-awareness can help you to understand when to go with your “gut” reaction rather than relying completely on analytical techniques.

    Self-awareness will never happen overnight. However, there are steps you can take to change and become a bit more tuned in to your leadership style. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
  • The next time you find yourself becoming angry or upset, force yourself to take a break and spend a few minutes thinking about why you are angry. You may find that your emotional response is not really coming from the immediate situation, but from a different issue altogether. Understanding allows you to appropriately respond to the situation rather than to react emotionally to it.
  • To control your temper, take ten slow, deep breaths through your nose before responding.


  • Learn to recognize your symptoms of excessive emotional involvement. Because it’s difficult to be objective about one’s own behavior, you may need help with this step. Ask a colleague to observe your behavior the next time you’re involved in a difficult situation and to watch for signs of stress, such as clenched fists, irritability, etc. Afterward, ask your colleague to describe your behaviors, and try to remember how you were feeling when you displayed these behaviors.
  • Develop your sense of humor. Learn not to take yourself too seriously.



  • Make sure you get enough rest and exercise. Develop other aspects of your life. This will help you maintain perspective.



Be honest with yourself. That might be the biggest step in developing self-awareness.