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Only 4 - 19% of Leaders are considered self-aware. Are you?

Ed Catmull, the President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation studios said, “the common-sense view of self-awareness is generally wrong and unhelpful.”

True self-awareness is a rare quality, although most people believe they are self-aware, leaders are often inept at understanding how those behaviours might affect those they lead.

While leaders understand, not everyone thinks the way they do – they often forget to ‘check in’ with those assumptions on a regular basis.


This conscious check in, can help leaders be realistic about their expectations, understand the strengths they bring to those around them and help them make better choices.


Self-awareness is linked to emotional intelligence, trust, confidence and profitability in the workplace, all while building resilience and adaptability to deal with the ever-changing business environment.


Using the Emotional Culture Deck, I have realised there are three big learnings for leaders who take time to sit down, think about their emotions and reflect on how that can impact others:

#1 Naming it, is claiming it.


Once leaders put a name to an emotion, a belief, a value, or a perception, it loses the stigma and becomes manageable. It's the same principle as going to the doctor to get a diagnosis. Identifying what it is, helps put it into context and separates it from it just being ‘who I am’.


In regards to emotion, one study found that just 36% of people are able to accurately identify their emotions as they occur.


Recently during a coaching session a leader identified they wanted their team to feel inspired, fun-loving and free, but personally identified needing to feel safe and secure to be successful in the workplace. This juxtaposition of expectations had created a disjointed work environment.


By identifying, acknowledging, and putting a name to it, she could work towards managing and creating the change needed for unity.


#2 Ask for input, self-awareness doesn’t need to be a vacuum.


Your own personal bias will affect how you assess yourself. Asking for feedback through trusted workplace connections (i.e bosses, colleagues or employees), or through an external business coach will help you get some perspective.


Realistically, the buck stops with you as the leader, but the way you perceive something, might just have a personal rose-tinted lens on it. So, be vulnerable, and ask. A leader came to me recently, totally overwhelmed with COVID-19, the constant changes, the instability, and the continuously changing goal posts. He felt like he was in a boat, with no oars, weathering stormy waters. We facilitated a conversation between other leaders in his industry to talk about the challenges, opportunities for collaboration and the fact he was not alone, these feelings were mirrored by his peers.

Emotions are never in a vacuum, neither should the awareness of yourself.


#3 Practice your listening, empathy and stay curious.


Self-awareness is all about noticing how you and the people around you react. This isn’t static, people change, environments change, Heraclitus famously said, change is the only constant in life. Paying attention to the emotional needs of those around you is important to help them grow.


Just because you want someone to feel fun-loving, doesn’t mean they want to today.


Practice your listening, (I recommend Kate Murphy’s, You’re Not Listening to grow your abilities), and stay curious to your ever-changing team.


The challenge for strategic and inspirational leaders is they often are looking to the horizon and so focused on goals, (which is great, keep doing this!), however this is often to the detriment of what is right in front of them. Practicing listening, empathy and staying curious might just help you achieve your goals faster, and stop those obstructing those strategic plans by acknowledging the things unsaid.


Despite the fact that self-awareness and leadership are so definitively linked, research indicates only 19% of female and 4% of male leaders show strong self-awareness.


Want to make a real difference in your organisation and have your staff motivated, engaged and passionate about being part of your team? I recommend trying a bit of self-awareness.









Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:



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