Cultivating Self-Awareness as a Leader

by Zach Montroy, SPHR

As a leader, have you ever asked for a 360 review? Opening yourself up to critique from peers or subordinates might sound like a dicey prospect, but as uncomfortable as it may be, increasing self-awareness is a necessity if you’re serious about growth. 

Great leadership requires the courage to confront problems. Exceptional leaders are committed to developing that courage; they run into it head-on. Brene Brown says, “A leader is anyone who sees the potential in people, processes, and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.” 

But what happens when the potential that needs development resides within you? The type of self-awareness that allows you to admit, recognize, and face your blind spots requires skill and tenacity. It’s also the only way to effectively scale your organization.

Blinds Spots Come with a Cost

Whatever you lack as a leader affects your team. Incongruence in how we see ourselves vs. how others see us can cause catastrophic damage. Without adequate self-awareness, we believe we’re “leading,” when we’re actually just leaving a mess.

How do we develop the type of self-awareness that will allow us to confront our weaknesses and shore up our deficiencies? Harvard Business Review defines it as two types. Internal self-awareness refers to how we see ourselves. It’s how we evaluate our performance, behaviors, feelings, and impact on others. External self-awareness means understanding how others view us. When your internal and external self-awareness align, you can feel confident that you’ve got a good picture of reality.

How to Align Internal and External Self-Awareness

The only way to know how others see you is to ask. A 360 review is a great way to solicit honest, structured feedback from co-workers. Over the course of my career, I’ve taken a number of 360s – and yes, they’ve all been humbling experiences. No leader is perfect, and if you think you are, the danger light is flashing on your dashboard. 

In each 360 review, I was given tangible areas of coaching in both my blindspots, and strengths to better leverage my team and to improve how I was leading. Clear is kind  – and giving my team, my peers and my boss an outlet to give honest feedback has always been helpful.

Leverage Effective Tools to Increase Self-Awareness

In my leadership coaching, I’m always looking for great tools to help increase self-awareness with myself and clients. When I came across the Leadership Circle Profile, it blew me away. LCP is the first competency tool to measure both the inner and outer aspects of leadership. It’s also organized into a powerful system for understanding human behavior and development, as well as making sense of the interrelationships between the many dimensions of yourself that are being evaluated. 

The Leadership Circle Profile measures eighteen Leadership Competencies. They’ve been well-researched and shown to be critical behaviors and skill sets for leaders. As part of the assessment, you’ll evaluate yourself, then receive feedback on your evaluation. Your score is even compared to how other managers evaluate themselves on these same competencies. 

Invest in Coaching

My work with The Intention Collective includes leadership coaching in many facets, and I’ve come to appreciate the value that external guidance can have on a leader’s commitment to growth. The LCP is a great example of our experience – when a leader’s abilities are over-extended or underutilized, they’re usually operating under self-limiting assumptions and ignorance of reality. When you, as a leader, commit to increasing self-awareness, you’ll experience exciting growth. It takes courage to confront yourself, but it’s worth it.

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