Self-Awareness and Leadership

Photo by Harry Gruyaert

Leaders who inspire can articulate shared values that resonate and motivate the group. These are the leaders people love to work with, who surface the vision that moves everyone. But to speak from the heart, to the heart, a leader must first know her values. That takes self-awareness.

Inspiring leadership demands attuning both to an inner emotional reality and to that of those we seek to inspire. These are elements of emotional intelligence.

Most of the competencies for high-performing leaders fall into a more visible category that builds on empathy; relationship strengths like influence and persuasion, teamwork and cooperation, and the like. But these most visible leadership abilities build not just on empathy, but also managing ourselves and sensing how what we do affects others.

To anticipate how people will react, you have to read people’s reactions to you. That takes self-awareness and empathy in a self-reinforcing cycle. You become more aware of how you’re coming across to other people.

With high self-awareness, you can more readily develop good self-management. If you manage yourself better, you will influence better.

Leaders also need the ability of self-awareness to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and so surround themselves with a team of people whose strengths in those core abilities complement their own.

Self-awareness, the inner radar holds the key to managing what we do-and just as important what we don’t do. This internal control mechanism makes all the difference between a life well lived and one that falters.


This article is an extract from Focus:The Hidden Driver of Excellence ©2013 by Daniel Goleman. Published by HarperCollins.