Back to Blog

The three domains of leadership development include – leading the business, leading others and leading self.  The first two domains include competencies such as strategy, developing others, leading change and approachability and decisiveness.   Leaders typically gravitate toward the domains of leading the business and others because of the relentless nature of the company.   As leaders, we often feel productive when we are engaged in the strategy of the business.

The risks to not leading yourself include burnout, becoming obsolete from a skill & knowledge perspective and losing differentiation.  The warning signs could include – short temper, exhaustion, lack of vision and clarity.

The analogy of the starving baker may be useful.  The baker spends all this time making bread for others and perfecting his craft that he or she ends up starving.  The baker is so focused on meeting the needs of the people and loses effectiveness.  Eventually, the baker is not as helpful to his customers because he himself is malnourished.

Consider the following quotes regarding the importance of self-awareness –

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Aristotle

“Companies with greater financial performance tend to have leaders with greater self-awareness.” – AMA

“Higher self-awareness leads to improved decision making, coordination of work and improved conflict resolution skills.” Dierdorff and Rubin Study – (HBR article)

“Identity is how we view ourselves and reputation is how others view us.  For us to enhance self-awareness, we need to improve our ability to understand our reputation.” – Hogan Assessments

The foundation of leadership is the ability to lead yourself.  Leading yourself involves enhancing self-awareness.  Self-awareness is about knowing your strengths and weaknesses.  Self-awareness cultivation is a process.  One does not arrive and say I am now fully self-aware.  We are dynamic individuals ever growing and changing.

A self-aware leader needs to develop understanding in the following areas –

  1. What are my strength
  2. What are my emotional triggers?
  3. What are my weaknesses or derailers?

There are numerous tools to build self-awareness –

  1. 360 Instruments – There are formal instruments which allow anonymous raters (peers, boss, and direct reports) to provide input on the 3 domains.   Additionally, you could deploy an informal 360.  Sending a list of questions to those around you.
  2. Feedback – How often do you ask the people around you for feedback? Robert Kaplan in his HBR article regularly asks his direct reports for feedback.  This invaluable exercise enhances self-awareness.
  3. Assessments – There seem to be hundreds of personality assessments.  These assessments can help you understand your personality strengths and derailers.
  4. Reflection – This year I have been using a 3 question exercise after each training session.  What did I do well? How could I improve? What apparent value was provided? This forces me to reflect and build awareness of what is occurring internally.

Regardless of the tools, the foundation of leadership is knowing yourself.  This is not an event it is an ongoing process.