Building Self-Awareness

by Zach Montroy, SPHR

Though it includes the word “self,” our self-awareness actually impacts those around us – in a big way. Though it’s an essential quality for any good leader to possess, it’s not always something that comes naturally. Today, we’ll be breaking down the foundation of self-awareness and how to cultivate it.

Why is Self-Awareness So Important? 

You’ve likely experienced being on a team with a leader that lacks self-awareness. They’re the type that have a difficult time recognizing how their mood or emotional reactions affect other people. They often have difficulty engaging the hearts and minds of those they work with, and they can be unaware of how their words and behaviors impact the actions of others around them. Perhaps most importantly, they have a difficult time empathizing with the emotions of their teammates, which leads them to be surprised by the reactions of others. They have a difficult time “reading” other people, and are often “misread” by others. 

What is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is the foundation for understanding your own emotions, and their impact on your actions, performance, and interactions with others. It’s the ability to understand emotional triggers and remain in control of our behavior in response to those emotions. It’s also the ability to constructively channel your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, into actions that are beneficial for your team or company. 

One of the most important skills you can build as a leader is your emotional self-awareness. Being attuned to your emotions equips you with the ability to navigate the challenges that will inevitably arise. Do you have the awareness to admit mistakes? Can you handle conflict in a constructive way, or is your emotional gauge inaccurate, making it difficult for you to pick up on emotional cues necessary to guide decision making?

Being attuned to emotions and mastering the ability to articulate the intricacies of those emotions and their causes will help you handle many of the challenges that you’ll face in leadership. Being vulnerable and leading with authenticity allows you to gain credibility and buy-in with your team. 

In a recent study, Korn Ferry Hay Group found that leaders with high degrees of self-awareness had teams with high energy and high performance 92% of the time. In contrast, leaders who lacked self-awareness created negative climates in their team environments 78% of the time. 

These aren’t surprising statistics. Self-awareness gives you the ability to address the impact that negative emotions can have on your work and the team around you. It equips you to be open to feedback, more open to innovative ideas, and in general, more open to creative solutions. Self-awareness is an absolute essential skill for high performing leaders.

Ways to Build Self-Awareness

It’s absolutely possible to strengthen your self-awareness. If you’re sensing some of the descriptions above may apply to you, it’s time to tackle the issue head on. Here are some simple ways to start increasing your self-awareness.


Take time to think and anticipate responses. Often, our schedules are booked and we’re moving from meeting to meeting. Taking time out of the day to self-reflect helps you anticipate both your potential responses and the responses of others. This gives you time to think through thoughtful and appropriate responses before you’re in the midst of navigating the situation. 

Act the Way You Want to Feel

Practice mindfulness, and take a moment during times of charged emotions to meditate on emotions that run counter to your prevailing mood. Being in tune with your emotions gives you the power to change your emotional reactions. The next time you’re experiencing intense pressure, be mindful of the feelings, take a moment to talk yourself down, relax and smile. Becoming emotionally agile will help you quickly adapt your emotional response when necessary.  

Body Language

Start learning more about the cues that others send through their body language. Often, the only emotional reaction you may get from another person is their body language, their facial expression, or mannerisms. Ask subtle questions to confirm your interpretations. If you’re picking up from a facial expression that the person may be frustrated or confused, ask them a question to answer your inclination. As you confirm your intuitions, you’ll become more and more attuned to this key indicator of others’ responses. 

Ask for Feedback 

Enlist the help of a trusted friend or advisor – one who will provide candid feedback on how your emotions impact those around you. Not only will this help you understand the effect your mood, emotions and body language have on those around you, having a trusted feedback mechanism helps you better understand the benefits in managing your emotional responses on those around you. 

“There is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, manager, and leader. That quality is self-awareness, the awareness of what motivates them and their decision making.” -Anthony Tjan, Author of Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck

Need Help? 

Schedule a call with our team to learn how we can guide you on crafting a coaching plan to build your emotional intelligence and self-awareness as a leader. Our work at The Intention Collective uses decades of leadership experience to help improve the way you lead your team.

Related Posts

Download our Free Guide:

The 3 Stages of Building a High-Performance Team (With Your Current Constraints)

Knowing when and how to grow your team can be a challenge. This guide walks you through the process we use when helping our clients navigate how and when to hire.


Next Steps: Sync an Email Add-On

To get the most out of your form, we suggest that you sync this form with an email add-on. To learn more about your email add-on options, visit the following page ( Important: Delete this tip before you publish the form.