A Leader’s Need: Ever Increasing Self Awareness

images-1To be aware of something is to show realization, perception, or knowledge. It means to be fully cognizant or conscious. Maturing leaders should be this way about themselves. If a leader is truly growing in his or her leadership, then a growing self understanding should be concomitant with their level of influence. The kind of leaders that people are drawn to are this way. Too many leaders remain blind to their own ways of leading and relating to others, which often causes toxic team environments and narcissistic leadership behavior.

Reggie McNeal, in his book Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders, lays out five aspects of the discipline of self awareness:

  • Self Knowledge-knowing who you are
  • Self Mindfulness-understanding your motives for doing what you do
  • Self Vigilance-knowing what makes you tick and what ticks you off
  • Self Consciousness-knowing how you come across to others
  • Self Alertness-maintaining your emotional, physical, and spiritual condition

These categories provide a great grid for what should become an ever increasing self awareness for every leader. I will go even father. If a spiritual leader is becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) then that leader should be on a path of increasing self awareness. Jesus Christ was the most self aware person who ever lived. Our increasing understanding about who we, who we are not, and our ongoing need for the gospel propels us toward a lifetime of learning and the opportunity to finish well.

10 replies
  1. David
    David says:

    This is a nice reminder. The startling thing is that when leaders are reminded about the importance of self-awareness it often occurs for them as some kind of New Age notion, not that pertinent to the “hard core” stuff that really drives business! This is a major indicator of the shallowness of their real understanding of how it really works in the Human Dimension. Because low self-awareness goes hand-in-hand with low other-awareness. One cannot be separated from the other for they are two dimensions of the same thing. So it turns out that leading others is inseparable from leading others. Seems that many are too busy leading bottom-line results to lead those who can best deliver those results. The funny thing is that when leaders begin to become more self-aware, the “others” quickly follow suit.

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  2. David McCuistion
    David McCuistion says:

    Gary:
    Greenleaf identifies it as one of the major characteristics of Servant Leadership. Goleman describes it as one of the five components of Emotional Intelligence and says that real achievers, i.e. to which I include leaders, have a high level of emotional intelligence. Goleman also includes self-regulation as a component.

    Without a strong self-awareness and self-regulation, it is extremely difficult to build strong, long-term relationships with fellow employees. “Know thyself” (Delphic Oracle) is foundational to strong, positive leadership.

    Keep the Quest Alive!

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  3. Mike Kelly
    Mike Kelly says:

    Gary … the elephant in the room regarding all of this EI, EQ, Self-awareness, ad nauseum, is the vehicle through which these discoveries are identified and addressed. It is my thesis in current doctoral research that this desired realization must occur through some effective relationship of accountability. I am convinced that most spiritual leaders (since this seems to be the focus of the book referenced) have little or no ‘real’ accountability whatsoever (obviously, this will be researched out ). These ‘followers’ seem to be easily impressed and ‘unworthy’ to challenge the questionable behavior, or unseemly activities of their spiritual guide. On the other hand, having spent nearly 20 years in corporate, there are inherent levels of accountability that must be adhered to with little opportunity to wander too far from the ranch, and yet we still have Enron, etc.,..

    I think the bigger issue is not JUST awareness, but if and when identified, what then?

    Keep digging … I won’t be too far away as you throw your findings upward!

    Reply
    • Gary Runn
      Gary Runn says:

      Thanks Mike for your great comments. You hit on a big issue. There is the tendency for leaders to over analyze themselves and not follow up or follow through with a personal development plan. This is another reason that I think leadership development is best done on the job and in a community (like through a cohort) of peer leaders. I agree that accountability is huge piece of this-and I think that accountability not only must include an executable plan, but be loaded with vision of what their life could be. So it not only contains the “no” but also the greater “yes.” (if that makes sense.) Thanks for adding to the discussion.

      Reply

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