Great Leadership Begins and Ends With Self-Awareness

What makes a great leader? Drive? Vision? Charisma? These characteristics no doubt contribute to successful leadership. However, according to The Center for Creative Leadership and a variety of confirming sources, the success of a leader starts with  self-awareness.

By definition, self awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. It is no surprise then that a successful leader would have a highly developed sense of self awareness. A leader’s  job on a daily basis consists of making key decisions, directing others towards a set of common goals, all while doing it in a fashion that aligns their personal vision and goals with those of the organization.

Self-awareness can be interpreted in widely different ways. For example, it could mean being introspective about one’s own feelings, outlooks and behavior. Or it could mean one’s awareness of goals, outcomes and values. I believe one of the most important ways to look at self-awareness in the context of the business world, however, would be a leader’s clear understanding of the impact he or she has  on others and how their "personal story” can be used to lead.

So, how do you better understand your “personal story”?  To begin, observe Ephesians 1:11 from the Message:

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ…he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living.

This scripture instructs us that to genuinely “find out who we are and what we are living for,” we can begin in Christ.  I’ve found this to be profoundly true in my life. The more I understand my core identity in Christ, the more he illuminates the salient parts of my story.  We can each gain powerful insights as we ponder such questions as

·      What life experiences (accompanied by the lessons you learned from them) have brought you to this point?

·      What are your strengths and weaknesses? Talents and expertise? Passions and interests?

·      What are some successes and some failures that you have experienced? What were the key takeaways?

·      What accountable relationships are you in?  And what are those people saying to you?

·      What is the state of your spiritual, physical and emotional health?  

The better you understand your personal story, the better you’ll be at assessing your personal alignment  with your organization as well as the alignment of others with the organization.  This understanding is at the core of leadership.  Yes, you’ll have to complement this foundation with a variety of other competencies – but knowing yourself – who you are and what you’re living for – is the essential ingredient to becoming a great leader of others.

Image: "Fall" by Kosala Bandara. Used via Create Commons Attribution 2.0 

Image: "Fall" by Kosala Bandara. Used via Create Commons Attribution 2.0