Self-awareness is a crucial skill for leadership and essential for building gravitas. Without it, you are blind to your strengths, blind to your flaws and blind to your impact on others. I call it the ‘spinach in the teeth’ syndrome: when people unwittingly let themselves down, either because they’re not playing to their strengths or because of unconscious flaws.
An ex-colleague was recently asked to step down from a high profile role in the City. This came as a monumental shock. They’d been delivering some excellent results; the only problem was, they’d not been communicating them powerfully enough to senior stakeholders, who only saw an affable person with a laid back attitude.
A lack of self-awareness can be seriously career limiting – and it’s the little things as well as the big things that get in the way.
- What you see as directive, assertive communication, your team sees as rude, upsetting and confrontational.
- What you think is energetic movement in a presentation, they see as aimless pacing and erratically flailing arms.
- When checking your phone, what you see as keeping tabs on emails and consulting the latest trends, they see as disengagement and rudeness.
Self-awareness: Recognition of your strengths and limitations; an appreciation of your values, beliefs, identity and purpose; an ongoing drive for self-development.
So how can you increase your self-awareness at work?
- Define your goals: start by getting crystal clear on what you want to achieve – there’s no point in increasing your self-awareness if you don’t know where you’re going. SMART objectives force you to commit to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-bound actions. To take your motivation to the next level, make your goals BIG: Brave, Inspiring and Ground-breaking and visualise how amazing it will be once you’ve achieved them.
- SWOT yourself: a SWOT is a great one-stop-shop for assessing your internal Strengths and Weaknesses and the external Opportunities and Threats that could support and hinder your development. Then consider which niche you’d like to represent, what key strengths and weaknesses you’ll need to maximise/minimise and which opportunities and threats you’ll need to capitalise/mitigate to achieve your goals.
- Explore your blind spots: another tool for increasing self-awareness is Johari’s Window, devised by Joe Luft and Harry Ingham, who observed that there are aspects of our personality that we’re open about and others we keep to ourselves. I’ve often found that when leaders choose to reveal more of their personality at work, they come across as more authentic and trustworthy as a result. For a downloadable copy <click here>
- Seek feedback: There are a number of ways you can make feedback part of your working culture. Build it into meetings with colleagues, clients, line managers and direct reports. Request it as part of your events or projects. For example, distribute a feedback form after a presentation or ask members of the audience for their views.
- Reflect regularly: When a task has gone particularly well – or badly – ask yourself what was it that you did, or didn’t do, that made the difference. To increase awareness of how you come across, ask a colleague to video you and watch it played back, paying particular attention to your voice, body language, posture and tone. It may be painful, but it’s a great way of identifying what you did well and what you could do to improve.
Assessing your gravitas
If you’re serious about developing your leadership style and gravitas, check out the Gravitas Profiling Tool, a brand new psychometric based on global research into the six qualities shared by leaders with gravitas. Once you’ve completed your Assessment you’ll receive a personalised Gravitas Report including in-depth analysis of your gravitas and tailored guidance on how you can improve your impact and influence.
Leaders with gravitas have self-awareness at their core. These simple steps will considerably increase your self-awareness and give you the tools to reach your goals and fulfill your leadership potential.
For more information, check out the Self-Awareness chapter of Leading with Gravitas.