Is Self Awareness enough?
Self-awareness is one of those things that is omnipresent when it comes to leadership development and style. In particular, leading a team of people requires us to motivate, influence, engage and inspire, certainly when managing down, but also when managing up. It’s a whole other multi-tasking role that doesn’t always come naturally. It requires an understanding of what makes each individual tick. Self-awareness – a conscious knowledge of who you are and how you work – is considered a critical skill in this area. However, as a leader you need to go one step further than simply knowing yourself, as the real key to management success is knowing how your actions and behaviour will impact others.
The people I coach are usually in director level or senior management roles. Often they have been the super-sales person, creative genius or master strategist on the floor. They’re on a quick ascent to the top or have already got there. Brilliant at what they do and big producers for their businesses, they come up with the goods every time – promotion has certainly been earned. However, effective management style is a different thing altogether and can tend to elude them due to lack of any real training, guidance or support. I’m brought in to help with communication and leadership issues when managers have largely been left to their own devices, which can sometimes work, but driven, ambitious people always have to have one eye on the bottom line and so can possess a somewhat harsh style of management or be abrupt communicators.
Often these clients pride themselves on how self-aware they are; it’s part and parcel of their identity and they attribute part of their success to this well-developed trait. However, this is only part of the story, because self-awareness is only one part of our emotional intelligence (EI), and EI is frequently referred to as the most indispensable of leadership qualities. Becoming self-aware of your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses and values is highly important and beneficial, but the crucial and often missing part is the ability to recognise your impact on others within your team or business. To acquire this skill requires empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and to manage both your and others’ expectations.
The challenge surrounding this is understanding that we all work differently, we each have our own set of values and beliefs that drive us – and that’s perfectly okay. To expect everyone to share the same perspective is unrealistic, it’s all about how we successfully navigate those differences. For instance, you may rank collaboration as one of your key values, preferring open and transparent conversations around common projects or a willingness to see the bigger picture for a client. Another department or commercial partner you are working with may have values that include independence, leading them to engage in a more closed, less cooperative way than you would prefer. The thing to remember here is that neither party is right or wrong, you simply have a different set of rules guiding how you work. These differences of opinion often divide us and end in conflict and it doesn’t need to be that way – a key leadership skill is to accept and respect a difference of opinion and even encourage individual work-style.
Being self-aware enough to:
a) know your values
b) how they play out in how you work
c) the impact these may have on those you work with, and finally
d) respect our differences, is the key to achieving true self awareness.