Effective leadership requires self-awareness, which means having a clear understanding of one's strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, feelings, and values and how they impact those around them. However, self-awareness alone is not enough. Leaders must also possess the crucial skill of self-management to truly succeed.
In essence, people with high levels of self-awareness can accurately interpret their thoughts, feelings, and actions. This is a rare skill, as many of us tend to rely on our emotions in interpreting various circumstances. Developing self-awareness is crucial for leaders as it helps them assess their effectiveness and make necessary changes. There are two types of self-awareness: public and private.
Public self-awareness involves being aware of how we come across to others. This awareness leads us to conform to social norms and behave in socially acceptable ways. While there are benefits to this type of awareness, there is also the risk of becoming overly self-conscious. Individuals who are excessively focused on public self-awareness may spend too much time worrying about what others think of them.
On the other hand, private self-awareness refers to the ability to recognize and reflect on your internal state. This type of self-awareness is closely linked to an introspective and curious approach to our feelings and reactions. For instance, you may notice your internal tension buildup as you prepare for a life-changing event.
The challenge with self-management lies in its definition. The most productive behaviors often do not align with our habits and preferences. Acting in ways that go against our preferences can make us feel uncomfortable, unskilled, and even unpleasant. Engaging in behaviors that contradict our habits can elicit similar negative reactions.
With a habit, our brain takes a shortcut and automatically responds to stimuli without conscious thought, saving time and effort. However, unusual behaviors require us to ponder over a situation, consider different options, and then exhibit actions compatible with that choice. This requires effort. The efficiency of habits on autopilot is what makes them difficult to change. It is easier and more enjoyable to default to an old habit than to invest energy in creating a new one.
Don't let barriers stop you from learning this crucial skill. Here are the basic steps you can take to transform your self-awareness into self-improvement.
When you're not in control of yourself but wish you were, take a moment to pay attention to how you're feeling, what you desire, and how you're interpreting the situation around you. For instance, if you find yourself talking excessively in meetings, take a moment to reflect on why you do so. Some of us who have a tendency to take action may be tempted to skip this reflective step and jump straight into planning and practicing, but it's important not to do so. Understanding the reasons behind our choices is essential for making positive changes.
Once you have a clear idea of what you want to change, it's important to delve deeper into what motivates you and explore different options. If you tend to talk excessively at the office, you could consider setting a specific number of times you will speak during a meeting and the duration of your contributions. Alternatively, you might decide to actively listen without speaking in certain meetings.
Our brains are deeply ingrained with old habits, making it difficult to change them. However, in order to create new neural pathways and develop new habits, practice is essential. Therefore, you can start by counting your comments and stopping once you reach your maximum limit, even if you have something important to add. By repeating this process, you will gradually learn more about your behavior, what motivates it, and how you can enhance it.
In order to maximize your effectiveness as a leader, you must go beyond being self-aware and focus on self-management. Begin by acknowledging your current actions, exploring different possibilities, and then putting in the necessary effort to overcome what may feel familiar or comfortable. Instead, make a commitment to effectively carry out what is most productive.