What is Self-awareness?
When defining the qualities of powerful leaders, self-awareness almost always sits near the top, yet it is one of the attributes least likely to be acknowledged or discussed in a business environment. If self-awareness truly is one of the greatest sources of competitive advantage, we must move beyond our fear of sounding too soft and bring the conversation into the boardroom.

We achieve self-awareness through a process of understanding our personality, unique motives, capacities and values. It involves owning our strengths while simultaneously acknowledging areas that need improvement. In a Western culture that promotes an individualistic and competitive ideology, the notion of acknowledging and exposing our weaknesses is countercultural. Fear of being viewed as weak or inferior may keep us from ever realizing our full potential. Owning our strengths and weaknesses can open doors not only to self-awareness but also to greater success and happiness.

The Benefits
According to a recent article in Forbes, “self aware individuals tend to speak with candor, admit their mistakes, thirst for constructive criticism, and exude a quiet confidence.” Not only do these individuals embody the aforementioned qualities, they also tend to have vibrant relationships, a strong sense of purpose, persuasive communication skills, and increased emotional intelligence.

These benefits become exponentially greater at the organizational level. When we model behaviors such as admitting mistakes, nurturing relationships and seeking feedback, we unconsciously give permission to others to do the same. As a result, an innovative culture emerges by forging trust-based relationships and encouraging employees to take risks.

Tools to Begin the Journey
Author Anthony K. Tjan of Harvard Business Review’s, “How Leaders Become More Self-Aware” suggests, “The idea that self-awareness is a critical factor for business building success is not a new insight. The tougher code to crack is how to become more self aware.” Three tools to begin the journey include:

1. Test and begin to know yourself better: Take a personality test such as Myers-Briggs, Leadership Legacy Assessment, Strength Finder or an EQ test.

2. Engage in Feedback Analysis (FA): Heralded by Phillip Drucker, but thought to date back to a 14th-century German theologian, Feedback Analysis begins with recording what you think will happen each time you make an important decision or take an action.  Next, when the results of the decision or action begin to manifest, compare them with your initial predictions. According to Drucker, the Feedback Analysis process will begin to reveal your strengths, what you are doing or failing to do to achieve your intended outcomes and expose areas of incompetence.

3. Tune into others: In order to resonate with others we must first authentically care about them. When we operate from a place of empathy, we are tuned into others emotional states, respond to social cues, and genuinely care about others’ wellbeing. Being in tune with others creates strong bonds, strengthens interpersonal relationships and allows us to see situations from multiple perspectives.

The Bottom Line

The difference between good and great lies within each of us. For driven and ambitious individuals the path to being good can be straightforward. Following the formula of working hard, meeting expectations, and being socially respectful will most likely propel us down the “good” path.

The journey towards greatness demands we venture into challenging and unknown territory. We must embark on the journey within: We must be willing to challenge ourselves and take risks, always fully owning our strengths and weaknesses. The journey of self-awareness will not only enhance our personal lives, but will inevitably equip us with the tools to guide our organizations to greatness.