If you’re a leader, then you probably have one or more leaders who’ve inspired you and you want to be more like. The best of these leaders have developed a good mastery themselves, which maximizes their effectiveness with other people, especially those they lead. I described one of my own experiences with one such leader in a previous post.
That particular leader and moment stuck out for me because in similar situations, I never handled things nearly as well as she did in that instance. I remember thinking afterward “how in the heck is she able to do that?!” Now I know: she had (and has) an incredibly high level of self-awareness.
Why self-awareness is important
Our emotions are strongly shaped by our experiences, especially those in childhood. Unfortunately, our deeply engrained and habitual responses to these emotions don’t automatically mature along the way. Reactions that once served us well may now actually be saboteurs of our success!
At the most basic level, emotions are information. Emotions are our brain’s way of telling us of our likes and dislikes, when to prepare for a threat, and when to move and meet a need. No question that the work place and everyday life have their fair share of real threats and stressors. And when you add to that the stress that comes from the “stories” we tell ourselves and perceptions of our experiences, you can end up with a toxic emotional and physiologic stew that can literally kill you (and unfortunately sometimes others)!
By becoming aware and attuned to our emotions, we can become intentional about the responses we choose. Self awareness provides us the ability to replace long-standing habits and patterns that have become self-sabotaging with ones that serve our better self-interests. As Covey aptly put it: “in between stimulus and response is a space”. Without a high level of self awareness, the space to choose is minimal at best and often not big enough to see daylight through. I think we’ve seen enough people, leaders in particular, who need a lot more space.
How do I grow my self-awareness?
People with high levels of self-awareness don’t just come by it naturally. Instead, they’ve developed an ability for mindfulness and self-reflection through extensive practice to the point that these practices become habitual. The good news is that getting started isn’t that hard: just thinking about self-awareness actually helps you improve the skill!
But growing your self-awareness ability and taking to the next level isn’t easy. It requires you to overcome your fear of your emotional “mistakes” and face emotions you don’t want or don’t like. The pay-off, though, is huge: a high level of self-awareness gives you the ability to read your own emotions and recognize their impact on you as well as others.
Why self-awareness is the secret
The formula and product of self-awareness then is: Read your emotions + Recognize impact= Space to choose. So, Self-awareness = Space to choose.
There is no way around it. If you want to make better decisions….the best decision…..you’re gonna need space. Taking a cue from the old “got milk” commercials– “Got space?” The better question is “how much more space do you need to become the leader you want to be?”
Self-awareness also facilitates empathy and self-management, which ultimately works in concert and allows for effective relationship management. And relationship management ability, the 4th domain or category of S+EI, will determine how well we are able to “get stuff done” with others.
We’ll discuss specific S+EI training concepts and strategies in upcoming posts. In the meantime,what do you need to do to get the space you said you needed? Go do it, or at least keep thinking about it.