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4 Sure-Fire Ways to Boost Your Self-Awareness

4 Sure-Fire Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness

Great leaders are often seen as outward-facing — communicating and influencing others as they drive an organization to success.

While communication and influence are 2 of the “Fundamental 4” core leadership skills identified in our research, the other 2 — learning agility and self-awareness — are more inward-focused.

Self-awareness can be the most challenging of the 4 to develop, but it can also serve as a foundation for strengthening all your other leadership skills.

Leader effectiveness is constrained or amplified based on how well leaders understand themselves, their awareness of how others view them, and how they navigate the resulting interactions.

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Increase Your Self-Awareness in 4 Key Ways

Self-awareness has 4 facets that are most critical for leaders:

  • Leadership Wisdom: These are insights from your experience that you can apply to the challenges you face.
  • Leadership Identity: This is who you are in your current professional and personal context.
  • Leadership Reputation: This is how others perceive you as a leader based on your current and previous behavior.
  • Leadership Brand: This is what you aspire to and the actions you take to support that mission.

Let’s explore each component in more detail so you can increase your self-awareness for greater success.

Leadership Wisdom

The best leaders have a bank of lessons and anecdotes they can bring to bear on new challenges. These insights don’t arise spontaneously but are the result of ongoing practice.

The key to cultivating leadership wisdom is taking time to reflect on your experiences. This includes revisiting your experiences from multiple perspectives, engaging in “surface reflection” to identify past actions and behaviors, and practicing “deep reflection” to examine underlying beliefs and assumptions.

This reflection must be done time and again, and good leaders often return to the same experiences repeatedly to gain new insights as they grow.

Leadership Identity

Your leadership identity, or social identity, influences how you lead, whether you’re aware of it or not. In our diverse, global marketplace, it’s even more critical to understand our own identity and how it shapes interactions with others.

Think of your leadership identity as 3 concentric rings (which may overlap). In the outer ring is your given identity — characteristics you have no choice about. These natural traits include age, nationality, race, some physical characteristics, and the like.

The second ring is your chosen identity. These traits describe your status, characteristics you control, and skills. Common attributes in the chosen identity are your occupation, political affiliation, and hobbies, among others.

The innermost ring is your core identity. These are the qualities that make you unique; some may change over your life, while others remain constant. Included here are behaviors, values, and beliefs.

Knowing your leadership identity may help you find common ground with others, leading to stronger relationships or reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings during critical communications.

“CCL changed me forever when I participated in their flagship Leadership Development Program (LDP). The program helped me become much more self-aware and assess/evaluate my leadership skills.”

— Natalie Dean Hawkins, Assistant Village Manager
Village of Pinehurst
Leadership Development Program Participant

Leadership Reputation

Your leadership reputation is what others think of you as a leader. Understanding your leadership reputation helps you comprehend how you may be perceived and judged by others. Knowing how you’re perceived will strengthen your ability to communicate with and influence others.

To understand your leadership reputation, ask questions about the reputation you’ve established, try to view your behavior as others may, and check to see if your reputation aligns with your values and your desired leadership brand.

Leadership Brand

How do people know the leadership you’re capable of, and how do you communicate it? That’s what your leadership brand isan aspirational set of leadership traits and behaviors.

Understanding your leadership brand — how you’d like to be perceived — allows you to act to change those perceptions in a positive, authentic way. Your leadership brand should identify your unique strengths, communicate them to others, provide a consistent experience that meets others’ expectations of you, and make explicit that which is implicit.

The key here is to bring to the surface, enhance, and polish your greatest strengths and make sure you’re communicating them to people you encounter inside and outside of your organization. A strong leadership brand can only be developed if you’re self-aware — you need to know what your leadership reputation is and have a deliberate plan for strengthening it to fuel your leadership aspirations.

For those leaders who work at it, greater self-awareness in these 4 areas will pay significant dividends.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Increase your self-awareness and strengthen the other “Fundamental 4” leadership skills that are key for all leaders with our fundamental leadership skills program, Lead 4 Success®.

Or, partner with us to increase self-awareness on your whole team with a customized learning journey for your leaders using our research-backed modules. Available leadership topics include Authentic Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Psychological Safety, Self-Awareness, and more.

November 20, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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