[October 24, 2021] For the past several weeks, I’ve put extra emphasis on the importance of character in leadership. Today’s article is no exception. But I would like to take a different twist and discuss how crucial self-awareness is for personal growth and success with others.
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. But more than anything else, a leader must have the self-awareness to “see” solutions to life’s obstacles.
“Self-awareness is not self-centeredness, and spirituality is not narcissism. ‘Know thyself is not a narcissistic pursuit.” – Marianne Williamson, American author and spiritual leader
There’s an old story that in the 1960s when U.S. President Ronald Reagan spotted a bedraggled hippie protester with a sign saying “Make love, not war,” he quipped that from the looks of them, they weren’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 behavior with societal standards and values. This is why here at theLeaderMaker.com, I write so often about values and their 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 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 this, and doing so is not an easy task, 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.
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