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Self-Aware Leadership

Tune in to any leadership book, podcast, or workshop, and chances are it’s about doing leadership: how to build trust, how to motivate others, how to help a team achieve its goals, how to manage time, etc.

And though doing leadership well is a worthy endeavor, and one the world needs, it is not the entire job. The underlying challenge is understanding who you are as a leader so that you can bring those gifts and perspectives to the role along with your well-developed skills.

Not sure who you are yet? Here are some ways to dig a bit deeper into what makes you tick. 

Know Your Strengths

Get a handle on what you’re good at. You may receive compliments on the things you do well, or you may be aware already of what those things are. Are you the person on the team who can solve practical problems? Do you have an uncanny ability to meet your commitments? Are you able to plan and replan without it being a chore? Are you the person others turn to when it’s time to brainstorm a new product offering?

The first thing to realize is that these strengths are unique to you. Recognize them and put them to use as you lead others. Good places to start are the CliftonStrengths assessment, formerly called StrengthsFinder, and the DiSC profile.

Know Your Values

Over your lifetime, you have developed a set of ideas that you believe are fundamental, the foundation for your life. Can you name them? It takes some effort to identify those ideals that are your bedrock, things like freedom, health, accomplishment, learning, power, recognition, or integrity.

When you make decisions, good decisions, you make them in line with your own set of core values. When you become frustrated with situations, it’s often because your values are being infringed upon.

Think about the stories of your life: What values do those stories represent? Which values make you who you are as a leader?

Know How You Are Perceived

The concept of a 360° assessment is to ask others—those you work for, those who work for you, and your peers—to weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of your leadership. It is a snapshot of your leadership presence, conducted by an objective third party, and is an excellent tool for understanding how others experience your leadership day-to-day.

It is ostensibly about how you do leadership, but by the very nature of the feedback it delivers, it is invaluable in providing insight about who you are as a leader. A good place to start is the Leadership Circle Profile.

Know When You're Stuck

There will be times when no matter how well you know yourself and how good you are at doing leadership, you will feel that it’s just not working. Embrace this feeling of stuck-ness. It signals growth. All the bright and shiny strengths and values will take you only so far.

You’ll also need to understand the parts of you that are not as acceptable, that you might even prefer to keep hidden. Psychiatrist Carl Jung called this the “shadow self.” Observing the ugly parts of ourselves (e.g., laziness, sadness, cruelty) without judgment and with compassion gives us the complete picture.

If the shadow is getting in the way of your leadership, you’ll need to find out what it is signaling to you. This is no easy task, and a leadership coach can be a valuable partner as you tackle it.

Leadership is a big job: challenging, complicated, frustrating, rewarding. It requires that you bring your whole self, every time, in every room and every context. Through it all, you have only yourself to fall back on. It’s essential that you get comfortable with that person—strengths, values, the hidden parts, all of you—in order to do that job exceptionally well.

 

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