Self-Awareness Is Key to Good Leadership

If you are to become a good leader, self-awareness is something you must develop. In fact, self-awareness is one of the key fundamental building blocks of good leadership.

There are many powerful and wealthy heads of companies in the world who are not good leaders. They are driven by ego and are blind to their own weaknesses. As a result, they do not know themselves well.

As Polonius said in Hamlet,

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

To be true to yourself, you must know yourself. Developing self-awareness will help you in all areas of your life—not just with your team at work, but with your family relationships at home.

Here are three levels of self-awareness to develop as you progress as a leader.


1. Integrity: you are who you are


The first step of becoming self-aware is to have integrity. Integrity is the ability to have all the pieces of your life fit together. When you have integrity, you are not one way on Sunday and a different way the rest of the week. You are the same person all the time.

Here’s a test for you to assess your integrity.

  • Are you concerned about people you know at church seeing you at work?
  • Are you concerned about your family seeing how you conduct yourself when you are traveling for work?

If you said yes to either question, then you need to work on your integrity.

Here’s how you can work on your integrity by developing your self-awareness in that area. Ask yourself these questions.

  • Who do you want to be?
  • Does the way you act live up to that standard?
  • When are the times that you are tempted to veer from that standard?
  • Why are you tempted to veer from that standard?

When I was a young man, I once asked my dad how he had avoided falling into any sexual temptation. His answer was profound: he said he never put himself in a situation where he would be tempted.

When you are tempted to do something that will cause you to veer from the person you want to be, then remind yourself who you want to be. That will help you be who you are. And keeping your integrity intact will help you develop your self-awareness.


2. Vulnerability: you know who you are


The next step in developing self-awareness is to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself about who you are—and who you are not.

It is important for you to be real with yourself about who you are. You must be able to admit where you struggle with your integrity. If you can’t admit that to yourself, then you won’t be able to change it.

Here’s a test to find out your level of vulnerability.

  • Are you able to sit in a room by yourself for 30 minutes—without an iPhone, a book, a TV, or any other kind of distraction?
  • Are you able to sit by yourself, with only your thoughts and God?

If just the idea of doing that bothers you, then you need to work on your vulnerability.

Here’s how you can work on your vulnerability and develop your self-awareness in that area. Examine your life: Be willing to assess whether you are the same person all the time—or not.

  • When are the times that you feel that you want to pretend you are someone you are not? Why is that?
  • What can you do to prevent those situations from happening?
  • What are ways you can remind yourself who you are?

When I am away from home on business (as I was when I wrote this), I like to wear an old, faded pajama shirt to bed that says, “Dad: A Son’s First Hero, A Daughter’s First Love.” This shirt reminds me who I am. And it reminds me not to be someone I am not.

You can can do the same thing so that you can foster your vulnerability in order to develop your self-awareness.


3. Transparency: you share who you are


One more step in developing self-awareness is to be transparent. When you are open and real about who you are—and who you are not—then you inspire others to do the same thing.

When you can share authentically about your self-awareness, you plant the seed in another’s mind about who they could be.

Here’s a checkup on your level of transparency.

  • Are you willing to share what your journey has been to become who you are now?
  • How many others have you told about the process you have undergone to get to where you are now?

If you are willing to be transparent with others about your mistakes, then you have good self-awareness.

Here’s how you can foster your transparency.

Find a group of people you can trust who you can meet with on a regular basis. It will be helpful if they all have the same faith background because that will give you some commonality to develop a foundation of trust.

I meet with a group of business leaders on a monthly basis. We are all willing to be open with each other. And we all are willing to hold each other accountable.

It’s helpful to have someone who can walk with you through your journey. By developing your self-awareness through your integrity, your vulnerability, and your transparency, you can help others start on the same journey—and you can help them finish well.


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