There is the leader who says she is great with relationships and has no problem getting along with anybody. The reality is that it is clear to anyone around her that she is constantly rubbing people the wrong way.
There is the leader who thinks he is strong and decisive, when the reality is he wants badly to be liked by everyone, so his decisions are wishy-washy because he is always trying to make everyone happy.
There is the leader who sees herself as open and caring, but doesn’t realize that every conversation she has is about herself. Her team rolls their eyes when she starts talking about herself again because clearly she doesn’t care a bit about them.
What do these leaders have in common?
A real lack of self-awareness.
They have created a belief system about WHO they are that is not consistent with HOW they are. They are not aware of how they come across to other people, and they do not feel the need to ask for true, genuine feedback. They do not understand themselves and their true motivations for how they actually behave (as opposed to how they think they behave).
For a leader, this is a real problem.
If a leader is not aware of his or her own motivations and where those motivations come from, they are likely to not recognize how they treat people and why they do what they do. They are likely to not understand their emotions and how they express their emotions, leaving them open for frequent confusion or misunderstandings.
People can pretty quickly recognize the lack of authenticity and the absence of consistency between who you think you are and who you really are.
Here are a few things we should always be doing to raise our level of self-awareness so we can be the open, caring, and authentic person we want to be (and believe we are).
Many people recognize when they are happy, sad, scared or mad. But there are dozens of words that are more nuanced ways to express those four basic emotions. Words like wistful, calm, shocked, or frustrated. Once you begin to recognize the nuances and more accurately label your feelings at any given moment, you will better be able to respond appropriately.
Is that how you would like to respond to situations like that? Question why you chose to respond that way—was it without thinking? If so, where did that particular reaction come from? How would you rather respond, and how can you begin to recognize those situations as they are occurring and consciously do things differently?
Ask them to provide several words they would use to describe you as a person and as a leader. Ask them to be specific and do not get angry or defensive when they tell you. Be thoughtful and honest as you evaluate what they say.
Think about how you grew up and what you learned and observed within your family. We bring into adulthood child-like understand of situations and ways to respond. For example, I know one leader who grew up in an abusive family. He learned that conflict was scary and dangerous. Unfortunately, he brought that belief into adulthood with him, so he avoided any kind of disagreement, thinking it would turn dangerous and scary. It wasn’t until he become aware of this pattern, and learned to make more adult, reasonable choices that he was able to overcome this and have healthier relationships.
Everyone has more to learn about how to be more self-aware, authentic and open. The more we are able to move closer in that direction, the better we will be able to successfully lead others.
It truly is worth the effort.