One Essential Practice That Leaders Must Learn

The key to leadership development, and 3 ways to get there.

Posted May 15, 2019

Research emphasizes that self-awareness is a critical starting point for leader development. Why? A good leader needs to know the strengths he or she possesses and must be aware of limitations in order to overcome or compensate for them. The very best leaders are self-aware.

Here are 3 methods for increasing self-awareness:

  1. Introspection. This is a psychological construct that involves looking inward – reflecting on one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The goal is to be as objective as possible in examining one’s self, which is often not easy. The idea is to set aside time each week to do an analysis of your behavior as a leader – the decisions you made, the way you interacted with others in the workplace, what seemed to work well, and what didn’t (and why). We learn from analysis of our successes, but especially from our failures.
  2. Upward Appraisals. Ask direct reports to evaluate your leadership. Upward appraisals are becoming more in formal performance evaluations (often as a part of 360-degree evaluations -- appraisals by supervisors, subordinates, peers, customers), but this can be done informally and on a regular basis. Of course, a concern is whether subordinates will be honest with their evaluations – a reason that they are often done anonymously in formal performance reviews. But, in leader-follower relationship built on trust, followers can feel free to provide feedback to the leader about the job she/he is doing.
  3. Coaching. Receiving feedback from a mentor, peer, or executive coach is another way to become self-aware as a leader. The coach can also provide feedback over time about any improvements or “backsliding” that has occurred in your journey to become a more effective leader.

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References

Church, A. H. (1997). Managerial self-awareness in high-performing individuals in organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(2), 281-292.