Self-Awareness is a Must for Great Leaders

By | September 2, 2021

[September 2, 2021]  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 leaders must be, by definition, resilient, tough-minded, and inner directed   Yet, more than anything else, a leader must have the self-awareness to “see” solutions to the obstacles of life.

“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.” – Billie Jean King, American former World No. 1 professional tennis player

There’s an old story that back 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 someone who 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 in, 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 important issue is whether we are capable of looking inward into our inner selves and can clearly see our strengths and weaknesses and then promptly make improvements that make us a better leader.

A good leader is one who can do this and doing so is not an easy task, nor is it often pleasant to do.  Most of us will shy away from self-awareness because what we see in ourselves is not pretty.  Good leadership, however, requires it.

Those of us without some form of self-awareness will create havoc and division, and are likely to view ourselves as morally superior to others.  Doing so, we create conditions that are damaging to those around us.

Leaders without self-awareness are, ultimately, destructive and will never be great in our position in life.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Self-Awareness is a Must for Great Leaders

  1. Army Captain

    I have discovered over time that being in the army helps you develop self awareness. However, it is also obvious, that if you spend too much time cavorting with politicians, you will be sucked into their world and become less of a worthy military leader. Case in point, Gen. Milley.

    1. anita

      I read the article Anya and it is a good one. A bit wishy washy but worth reading.

  2. Willie Strumburger

    Gen. Satterfield, as you know reading this forum that I’ve been a regular reader and contributor to the leadership forums now for a long time. The reason I’m writing this is that doing so has helped make me more self aware. When others comment on your words, they are helping you… whether good comments or bad. The more feedback about reality the better we become. When we live in a social bubble like Hollywood actors do, they are narrow and pitiful people.

  3. Valkerie

    General Satterfield, you might be treading on the edge of being a philosopher and I know you repeatedly say you are not, that’s okay with us. I guess you have to philosophize occasionally to get your point across. I personally like it best when you use stories to hammer home a point. Thanks for another great article and please keep posting. Oh, I also look forward to reading your new book coming out this month.

    1. Tony Cappalo

      Yeah, the book should be interesting if it follows how Gen. Satterfield writes. I love his style.

      1. Max Foster

        We all saw this, I think. And, those who are regular readers of his blog, like you and I, can see it as well. Gen. Satterfield walks the edge of philosopher, mentor, and leader. That is a powerful combo of traits. I only wish that more of our political and military leaders would be more self-aware and humble. That is surely lacking today.

        1. Dead Pool Guy

          Brilliant point, Max. Gen. Satterfield, are you watching this? Keep your eye on our leaders and remind us, if you will, of their failures, but also how they are failing and what they should have done differently.

  4. Watson Bell

    “Most of us will shy away from self-awareness because what we see in ourselves is not pretty.” Yes! What we see, if we look deep enough is evil inside us. We all have it. We all fear it. But by looking inward, only then can we begin to deal with it.

  5. Janna Faulkner

    Like the fact that Pres. Joe Biden has ZERO self-awareness and look at the destruction he has brought upon the world in such a short time. Don’t see it, then you also have zero self-awareness. This is often used incorrectly as a criticism of leaders and mostly that’s not true but in the case of Biden, yep, he is an idiot to boot.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Another smack down of Biden and his WH administration. How in the world can anyone work for this man? He is a dementia patient and has no self-awareness, OR an awareness of what’s happening around him. Can someone be that dumb?

      1. The Kid 1945

        Yes, someone can be that dumb. Example, Joe Biden. But another clueless person is Kamala Harris. She is worse than Biden. Imagine that. Two clueless world leaders. The results will not be pretty. And there is blood on their hands and yet many brainless Americans follow them like lemmings off the cliff.

    2. DocJeff

      Good comment, Janna. Thanks. And, thanks to Gen. Satterfield for putting up this article at exactly the right time in our nation. Examples of clueless leaders are out there for us all to see.


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