Effective Leaders Focus on These 4 Areas to Develop Self-Awareness

Are you aware of your character, feelings, and desires? Why is self-awareness important? Understanding leadership self-awareness is crucial for leaders. In this article, I’ll share insights and best practices that leaders can use to develop self-awareness. We’ll cover 4 areas that define and improve self-awareness: experiences, energy, feedforward, and stress. To top it off, I’ll be providing you with 3 crucial questions to ask yourself, so make sure you read on until the end.

What do you believe self-awareness is? I believe it’s a skill and a trait, but not on a basic level. The reason why I talk about self-awareness is because that’s where everything begins for successful leaders. Self-awareness in leadership is the key to understanding yourself before you understand others. Before you discover new abilities or the points of view of other people, you need to understand how you think and how you see things.
It’s also in reference to objective versus subjective opinions. We can never be truly objective because there is always some conscious or unconscious bias that’s resonating in the back of our minds. Can leaders grow without self awareness? How can you improve self-awareness skills?

Experiences with Leadership Self-Awareness

You can look at a few things to improve yourself today and in the future. To do that, it’s essential to look at all the experiences that you went through and who you were in the past. Why being self-aware is important?

What does that mean? Think about all the work you’ve done, all the habits that you had, and all the essentials that you have achieved. Then, consider how did they contribute to the overall success in your life. Were you successful because you were doing A and were you unsuccessful because you were doing B?

Consider those and then review how you can improve in the future just by reflecting and understanding, because that’s one of the essences of self-awareness. Some people suggest writing down your weaknesses and looking for areas that you’re not good at. I would highly recommend that you examine the areas that you are strong at.

Then, instead of looking into the weaknesses, think about the areas for improvement. This means that it’s not the area that you’re good at, but at least it’s something that you are knowledgeable off. That way, you don’t focus on something that is not bringing any good to you.

Energy in Self-Awareness

Another area that you can evaluate is what energizes you. What gives you energy to succeed every day? Is it that cup of morning coffee? Is it knowing that you’ve helped someone or any other example that you can think of?

Then, on the other hand, examine what pulls that energy away. How does that contribute to your life’s overall success? Is it spending time with wrong people? Is it spending too much time on social media? Is it not watching enough educational videos?

Assess the areas that bring you energy and the ones that drain it away and then compare them so that you will understand better. Your perception of those areas will bring you valuable feedback. Are you regularly asking for feedback?

If you are, how are you taking note of it? Are you improving right away? If not, consider acting on that feedback. I frequently ask people how to improve and they regularly suggest something. I always take note of those suggestions so that I can review my progress from time to time.

leadership self awareness note taking

I also consider all the previous feedback that I have received.

  • What have I done in the past?
  • How did I react to the feedback?
  • Was I reacting positively or negatively?
  • How did that all influence the way I think and see things?
  • Did the ego overcome my comprehension and logic in accepting the feedback that I have received?

Once you understand it, you can also think about how you can improve your feedback process. You can also consider an exercise that I always recommend and that is feedforward.

Feedforward to Leadership Self-Awareness

I learned that from Marshall Goldsmith, one of the top executive educators and coaches in the world. His suggestion was to ask for feedforward. Once a day or once a week from a person that you believe will contribute to your improvement. It’s typically a 2 to 3-minute conversation.

You can ask the following questions:

  • How did I do this week?
  • What did I do well?
  • What I need to improve?
It’s as simple as that. Once that person gives you the suggestion on how to improve, make sure that you take note of it, thank the person, and then just walk away. No judgments, no discussions. Unless the person said something that you did not fully understand. Beyond that, do not discuss it further or justify yourself. That will be counter-productive to the exercise and will not contribute to your success.

Stress and Self-Awareness

For the last part, examine the stressful situations. How do you react to stress? It’s been a buzz word for quite some time and many people respond differently to it.

  • How do you react to the situations where you are affected in an emotional way?
  • Do you allow your emotions to overpower your logic in times of increased workload?
  • How about the situations where you are on a tight deadline?

Some people become irritated and some become more focused. I find myself becoming more driven in stressful situations. After that, you can think about the responses and then see how you can improve further. It’s essential to keep your cool during those stressful situations so your logic will still stay in control rather than losing it.

Improvement Through Self-Awareness

Let’s take a deeper dive into the self-awareness realm. There are three questions to help you get better at self-awareness.

The first one is: Who am I?

Think about who you are as a leader and that will help you understand not just who you are but also your level of self-awareness. At which point of your life’s journey are you now as a leader?

The second question would be: What do I know?

It’s critical for self-awareness to understand what you know, and what you don’t know. Where are you in terms of learning experience? That’s one of the things that kind of fascinated me early on. It’s just the understanding of what I don’t know and my limitations. Not limitations in a negative way, it’s just the fact that I am not capable of doing something because I haven’t explored that avenue yet.

leadership self awareness what you know

The third question that you can ask yourself is: What do I do?

You might practice certain things in a specific way. You exercise daily, write a journal, talk to certain people. What do you do in a workplace environment?

Then, think about what you don’t do. Not just within the organization but also outside, in your personal life. That’s directly influencing how you behave. That can be anywhere along the lines of what you don’t do in terms of health, eating and sleeping habits. Think about those aspects because they will definitely help you understand yourself better.

Self-Awareness and Leadership Effectiveness

Remember, the three questions to ask: Who am I? What I know? and What I do? Those were the benefits of self-awareness for leadership.

Leaders develop with effective skills, especially when they are aware of those skills. Self-awareness is crucial. Do you believe that self-awareness is a skill or a trait? What is self-awareness in your own terms? How do you practice self-awareness in your life or career? Let me know in the comments below and share some self-awareness examples from your life.

Ready to take the next step in your leadership journey?

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John Todorovic

John Todorovic

I help aspiring and existing leaders improve their skills through effective coaching.

As a restless knowledge seeker, I love acquiring new knowledge on a daily basis through various types of research techniques. All this aligns with my life's mission: sharing knowledge is a privilege and an obligation.

15 Responses

  1. Great article John.

    As individuals wer are not always aware of ourselves in relation to what we do, what we are capable of.

    Who am I?
    What do I know?
    What do I do?

    Hearing those questions certainly gave me plenty to think about.

    Much appreciated?

  2. One of the best way to learn and update yourself is through blog post reading. I learned something new today from this post and I am thankful for this.

  3. John, this is indeed a great article. I just saw the entire video too. Awareness of one’s own weaknesses enables executives to work with others who have differing strengths to them, they are more easily able to accept the idea that someone else may have better ideas or abilities than their own and therefore benefit from that.

  4. Stress and self awarness remains my pet peeve3 I bope to work more on that.
    Thank you for sharing those insights !

  5. Very in depth article on self awareness! I do try to be self aware and occasionally ask myself these sorts of questions. It’s great to be in tune with yourself.

  6. I remember attending a leadership training/seminar 6 years ago and the speaker couldn’t stress enough the importance of being self aware. Whether we aim for personal or professional development, we wont be able to achieve our goals if we lack self-awareness. This is because only when one understands where one lacks, can he or she focus their efforts on what to improve.

  7. This is such an amazing post. Its very deep on self awarness.

    Off topic. Is your last name Croatian? Todorovic is a common last name in Croatia and Serbia.

    1. I was born and raised in Serbia. Been living in the Philippines for 17 years. John is my nickname here and it’s easier to pronounce and remember compared to Srđan. 🙂

  8. Awesome post! Self-awareness is truly something difficult to master but to be a great leader one must be self-aware. It only make sense because how can when lead others when they dont know themselves.

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