3 “W’s” of Self-Awareness Leaders Must Have to Succeed

Have you ever seen someone who, despite being majorly stressed, can still interact with people with the utmost respect and dignity? It takes you back a bit because most people don’t.

An example that sticks out in my mind was a meeting I had with one of my former bosses. I found out later that the person who met with her right before me had “dropped a bomb” on her before I walked in. Though visibly upset, she asked for “moment”. She then briefly talked through what she was experiencing internally as she cleared her head, regained focus and then gave me her full attention. What she had given me was the gift of real-time insight into someone with great self awareness.

What it is

Self-awareness is a deep understanding of one’s emotion’s, to include both strengths and limitations, values and motives. It’s a foundational skill for social and emotional intelligence (S+EI) as well as self-confidence.  Self-awareness is characterized by being honest with yourself and others about the real you.

The 3 specific competencies related to self-awareness are:

  • Emotional self awareness
  • Accurate assessment of self
  • Self-confidence

What they Have

People with a high level of self-awareness have a remarkable understanding and are keenly aware of:

  • What they do well
  • What motivates and satisfies them
  • Which people push their buttons
  • Which situations send them over the top

In short, they have a very direct and  honest understanding of what makes them “tick”

Goleman describes two other characteristics of those with high levels of self awareness:

  • A sense of what matters most-  They can quickly process the factors related to what they loathe and love and come to informed decisions that are in their best interests. What results is an ability to work from a place of internal motivation vs being dependent on external rewards.
  • Intuition- They are able to process their emotional “memory banks” in conjunction with the rational brain in a way that “makes meaning” of what they are experiencing. Once done, they can apply what their meaning-making in a way serves their best interests. Goleman has called this the smart guess, which really amounts to having a direct pipeline to the accumulated life wisdom they’ve developed.

What they do

People high in self awareness are:

  • Keenly aware of and understand their tendencies and reactions to specific events, challenges and people.
  • Quickly make sense of their emotions and understand why something gets a reaction out of them.
  • Have a willingness to tolerate the discomfort of focusing on feelings that may be negative, which isn’t easy to do.

People who do this can cut to the core of a feeling quickly, but it requires practice. Situations that create strong emotions will always require more thought, effort and self-reflection than does the day-to-day. Those high in self-awareness are willing to pay this price and  in turn are rewarded by not  reacting on impulse or behaving in a way that leads to no regrets.

There is a lot more to say about the importance of self-awareness and how to get more of it, but that’s for another post.

In the meantime, how does your self-awareness sit with you?  You can take a swag or actually measure your self-awareness level, but either way you need to know where you stand if you plan on intentionally growing it.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “3 “W’s” of Self-Awareness Leaders Must Have to Succeed

  1. Question- What is a “swag” and best way to measure my self awareness level? Will future posts give ideas of “exercises” to improve emotional awareness and intelligence?

    • Cory,

      I apologize for the late reply, didn’t see your comment until this morning. “Swag” is slang for a wild guess.

      Future posts will certainly provide strategies for improving your S+EI. Knowing how you rate in each S+EI category will give you a good idea of which 2 or 3 you need to focus on most at any given time.

      Stay tuned!

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