The Mindful Manager: Self-Awareness Is Job One

Self-awareness is an often-ignored management topic.

Posted Nov 08, 2019

One of the key elements of mindfulness is seeing the world as it is. One of the key elements of successful management is seeing the business world as it is.

In management, an important reality of how you view the working world is how you view yourself. How cognizant you are of the way others perceive you and receive the messages you're sending. In short, self-awareness.

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An important element of management involves how you view yourself.
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Why is this helpful for management? Because so much of effective management involves influencing others in a positive, constructive way. To take a very simple example, if a manager feels he or she is treating employees reasonably and fairly, but the employees feel the manager is treating them unreasonably and unfairly, that’s (no surprise) a recipe for serious discontent.

Often-ignored management topic 

Self-awareness was never a topic I heard much (if anything) about in my MBA studies or leadership development programs. Yet through my decades in the corporate world, there’s no doubt in my mind that self-awareness (or lack of it) can be a vital component of how one will do in a management role.

While there’s generally been a lack of comprehensive studies analyzing the connections between self-awareness and managerial performance, there is at least some solid work now linking high self-awareness to career success.

My own observation in business was that lack of self-awareness was a not uncommon management stumbling block. Even talented people with intelligence, drive and business acumen could face headwinds and disgruntled employees (and therefore engagement and retention problems) where there was a substantive disconnect between self-perception and reality.

A mindful connection

As more companies catch on to the many benefits mindfulness can bring, I’d place self-awareness near the top of the list.

It’s a foundational attribute for managers to build on.  By keeping us “in the present” with an emphasis on empathy and listening skills, mindfulness can help managers develop a clear and thoughtful positive focus that's valuable for forging productive relationships with employees. 

Which after all is what results-oriented managers should want to do.