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The self-aware leader: Balancing insight and impact

11 June 2024

The self-aware leader balances insight and impact. Learn why self-awareness is pivotal for navigating challenges, motivating, and making authentic decisions.

Effective leadership extends beyond making decisions and executing strategies. It’s about understanding yourself deeply – a quality often overlooked but with the potential to profoundly influence and steer relationships. In this article, we’ll delve into the concept of self-awareness and its pivotal role in leadership.  

The power of self-awareness 

Leaders who possess self-awareness have a unique advantage. Here’s why: 

  1. Composure amidst difficulties: When the storm clouds gather, self-aware leaders maintain their composure. They understand their emotional triggers and can navigate challenges without losing their cool. 

  1. Motivating teams: Self-awareness extends beyond personal insights. It allows leaders to understand their team members better. By recognising individual strengths, weaknesses, and communication styles, they can motivate and guide their teams effectively. 

“Know Thyself”: The Oracle’s wisdom 

When contemplating self-awareness, the ancient inscription at the Oracle of Delphi – “know thyself” – still resonates today. Let’s discover some of the elements of self-awareness: 

External self-awareness - the you that others know you to be 

Many leaders reject feedback from colleagues and other external sources, justifying their actions by arguing that “they do not know the real me”. However, research tells a different story. External feedback often provides a more accurate reflection than our own self-perception. 

Action Point: Be open to feedback from trusted sources—colleagues you respect, mentors, or coaches. Their insights create a balanced picture and help you grow. 

Internal self-awareness – the you that you know yourself to be 

Turning the focus inwards entails defining your core identity: who you are, what you believe in, what your drivers and motivators are, and what you want to achieve. This entails a lot of self-reflection over an extensive period of time.  

Action Point: Regularly engage in introspection. Journal your thoughts, revisit your values, and assess your progress. Self-awareness isn’t a destination; it’s an ongoing journey. 

Self-insight – the art of balancing external and internal self-awareness 

Self-insight informs better decision-making. Leaders who understand their biases and motivations find it easier to make choices aligned with their own and organisational goals and ethical principles. 

When you start to incorporate knowledge about your own strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals, you become a more authentic version of yourself. Being an authentic leader in turn leads to building trust and credibility. 

Effective leadership lies in balancing external and internal self-awareness.  

Action points

  1. Listen Actively: Pay attention to feedback. Don’t dismiss it outright. Consider it as a mirror reflecting your blind spots. 

  1. Stay Curious: Continuously explore your inner landscape. What motivates you? What fears hold you back? Curiosity fuels growth. 

  1. Embrace Vulnerability: Admit your imperfections. Vulnerability fosters trust and authenticity


The self-aware leader isn’t a mythical figure—it’s someone committed to growth, willing to explore both their external and internal worlds. So, let’s heed the Oracle’s wisdom and embark on our journey of self-discovery. 


  1. Buckley, F. (2023, June 5). The Power of Self-Awareness in Leadership: Unlocking Remarkable Results [LinkedIn article]. LinkedIn. Retrieved from  

  1. Crans S, Aksentieva P, Beausaert S, Segers M. Learning leadership and feedback seeking behavior: Leadership that spurs feedback seeking. Front Psychol. 2022 Jul 22;13:890861. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.890861. PMID: 35936269; PMCID: PMC9355701. 


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