Leadership and Self-Awareness

By | September 9, 2022

[September 9, 2022]  Leadership today involves navigating some of the most difficult situations without any signpost markers along the way telling us which way is best.  That means a leader must be, by definition, resilient, tough-minded, and inner-directed.  However, more than anything else, a leader must be self-aware to “see” solutions to life’s obstacles.

“Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.” – Debbie Ford

There’s an old story from the 1960s when U.S. President Ronald Reagan spotted a bedraggled hippie protester with a sign saying, “Make love, not war.”   Reagan said that from the looks of him, the protester wasn’t capable of doing much of either.  Reagan, like all great leaders, was fully self-aware.

Self-awareness (not to be confused with consciousness) means that a person has the intellect to recognize, without bias or judgment, that he (or she) evaluates and compares one’s own behavior with societal standards and values.  This is why here on theLeaderMaker.com, I write so often about values and its impact on our standards of behavior.

In the study of psychology, self-awareness has been called “arguably the most fundamental issue in psychology.”1  But that is for academicians to worry about.  For those of us who study leadership, the critical issue is whether we can honestly look inward into our inner selves, clearly see our strengths and weaknesses, and promptly make improvements that make us better leaders.

A good leader can do precisely that, and doing so is not easy, nor is it often pleasant to do.  Most shy away from self-awareness because what they see in themselves is not pretty.  Good leadership, however, requires it.


  1. http://psychology.emory.edu/cognition/rochat/Five%20levels%20.pdf


Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

15 thoughts on “Leadership and Self-Awareness

    1. Goalie for Cal State

      Commie! I suppose that your answer would be that the person is the same as the state. That we are nothing without the state. Simply put, it’s impossible to better yourself or improve any aspect of your life without self-awareness. Without a starting point, how can you measure how far you’ve come or how far you still need to go?

        1. Wild Bill

          👍👍👍👍👍 Hey Valkerie, sometimes you just make me laugh out loud. But the question by Commie Red deserves a real answer. That he asked the question is important in and of itself because too many college snowflakes today have no idea that they are going down the path of the new neo-marxist ideology of today, called “Progressivism.”

    2. Greg Heyman

      Commie, odd that you would even ask that question but I guess I know why. Any way, self-awareness is important because it’s a major mechanism influencing personal development.

  1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Gen. Satterfield, great article. Thank you for providing this needed look into what most of us are doing to destroy our selves. Yes, be self-aware. But also make sure you know what your weaknesses and strengths are too.

    1. New Girl #1

      Simply put, self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings. That sounds pretty simple. But the truth is, many of us float through our days with little awareness of what we’re doing or why we’re doing it. Otto, you’re right about Gen. S knowing what he is talking about and that we destroy what remains of ourselves if we are not self aware.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Don’t be surprised, Winston. We no longer emphasize self-awareness in schools or at home. We just say you are “okay the way you are.” Identify as a rock and you are a rock.

      1. Harold M. Smith II

        Hi Winston and Tom, if you want to read about someone who is self-aware, read Gen. Satterfield’s book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq.” That book tells the stories of some of our military heroes who are very very self-aware ….. or they would be dead. Great reading. ✔


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.