Author: Yvonne Nieuwoudt
The ability to observe one’s behaviour, to be aware of one’s own actions, and to appreciate one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions, is now understood to be essential as a foundation for exceptional leadership. Leaders, who are self-aware, understand how their environment affects them and how they affect their environments. They know what affects them positively and negatively and how that impacts on their job performance (Shay, J. M., 2003).
What does it mean to be self-aware?
Self-knowledge – the accuracy of self assessment - is closely related to self-awareness; it is the long-term correlate of self-awareness in the moment, i.e. becoming aware of one’s thoughts and emotions (Knight, A. and Sparrow, T., 2006). The statement, "Know Thyself," is attributed to the early Greek philosopher Socrates who is famous for stating that to be wise is to Know Thyself, that the unexamined life is one not worth living. Socrates and the ancient Greeks also defined self-knowledge as understanding the limits of one’s performance capabilities. Later on Daniel Goleman reviewed the term, self-awareness, as: “having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, as well as one’s strengths and limitations and one’s values and motives.”
Why should I become more self-aware?
The Wharton Business School reports that leaders need to be self-assured, and those who are, are a source of motivation for others in the organisation. People with strong self awareness tend to be more realistic – neither overly self-critical nor naively hopeful. They are honest with themselves about themselves. They are honest about themselves with others, even to the point of being able to laugh at their own foibles” (Shay, J. M., 2003). Knowing what we feel in the moment and using that to guide our decision making; having a realistic assessment of our own abilities and a well grounded sense of self-confidence sets the stage for building interpersonal relationships (The Self Science Programme: Goleman's EI Competencies).
Strategic self awareness
Dr. Robert Hogan reminds us that although we need to become aware of our thoughts and emotions, i.e. being attentive of the unconscious, (to notice what we notice and why), we also need to gain an external view of ourselves. He calls this perspective, strategic self-awareness. Your strategic self-awareness can be understood as the awareness of your performance capabilities determined by your strengths, abilities and limitations in relation to other people. (Hogan Assessments, 2008). Dr. Hogan highlighted two components of strategic self-awareness: understanding one’s limitations and strengths; and understanding how they compare with those of others. He emphasised that strategic self-awareness cannot be mastered only through introspection. It is highly dependent on continuous performance based on feedback from your peers, subordinates and managers in terms of your talent level in various performance domains, as well as the degree to which you are willing to learn, your ability to function as part of a team, your sportsmanship, and ability to perform under pressure (Hogan Assessments, 2008). Strategic self-awareness creates an Authentic Leadership: the word authentic derives from Greek sources meaning one who accomplishes. To be authentic is to act, to embody, to engage, and to participate in life. (Terry, R. W., 1993). According to Robert Lee and Sara King, authors of Discovering the Leader in You, “there is no such thing as “one size fits all” leadership; the most outstanding leaders are authentic leaders. Your leadership abilities flow from who you are as a person: your values, talents, personality, and self image. Being authentic is about leading in a way that is natural for you and not trying to be someone else.”
The measurement of Strategic Self-Awareness:
The HoganDevelop Suite provides one with valuable and insightful information which can be utilised to shape and direct one’s career in terms of retaining and growing top employees, effective employee management and coaching, succession planning, and competitive advantage (Hogan Assessments, 2008). More specifically, the HDS is an excellent tool for use in: • Personal risk assessment – Highlights the degree to which a person may exhibit tendencies that can derail an otherwise promising career. • Personnel selection – Evaluates dysfunctional tendencies that negatively impact on job and team performance. • Team building – Highlights disruptive tendencies that cause team conflicts.
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Bibliography Hogan Assessments. (2008). The Science of Personality. Retrieved from www.thescienceofpersonality.com. Shay, J. M. (2003). Self-Awareness: A Strategic Leader Competency. 1-3. Sparrow, T. and Knight, A. (2006). EI Applied: The Importance of Attitudes in Developing Emotional Intelligence. England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. The Self Science Programme: Goleman's EI Competencies. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.6seconds.org.