A recent study of 4,500 people by the Hay Group showed that 19% of women and 4% of men were self-aware. In another study it showed, the more you advance in your career, the less self-awareness you tend to have. Could it be that you start believing your own press, or is it just that you simply don’t have the time to reflect? Either way, self-awareness is the essential, yet often invisible, piece to the puzzle of exemplary leadership.
Intuitively, it might seem that self-awareness is all about finding out what’s bad about you and fixing it. But that approach might lead you more towards self-focus or self-consciousness which is not quite as effective.
Self-awareness has two parts – the first is knowledge of your values, motivations and triggers; how you are feeling and the second part is how others perceive you. Self-awareness is you existing in a system, not about you alone. On the other hand, self-focus is all about yourself: what do you get, what do you want. Nobody else exists in the equation.
Self-consciousness tends to occur when you lack confidence and are constantly wondering what your actions will look like to others. When you’re self-conscious, you’re also thinking about yourself, but in a way that highlights your insecurities or perceived flaws. You start fixating on what’s wrong with you, not on the problems that need to be solved, the other people in the room, or your impact. If you’re constantly using energy to beat yourself up, you will find it even more difficult to perform at your best.
Self-awareness is more about asking “what” and not “why”. What am I often triggered by? What did I do in this situation and how can I do it better? If you ask “why”, you end up cross-examining yourself in a harsh way and are metaphorically picking up a hammer and hitting yourself in the head. Self-awareness should lead you to solutions, not self-criticism. Approach it positively, if you’re always beating yourself up, you are wasting your time, energy and hurting your own self- confidence making it even harder to achieve what you want.
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Former Regional Director, APAC
The Boeing Company