“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”
“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
A study by the Cornell School of Industrial and Labour Relations (2010) found self-awareness to be the strongest predictor of overall success of leaders. Awareness of one’s own strengths and challenges enables executives to work with others who have different strengths to them, they are more easily able to accept the idea that someone else may have better ideas or abilities than their own and therefore benefit from that. A lack of self-awareness can potentially alienate others, through misunderstanding the impact of your actions on them.
VUCA-environments and Self-awareness
When we talk about the changeable society in which we live, we often refer to it as a VUCA environment. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. In short, it means we are living in a changeable world in which it is no longer clear what is being influenced by what. A world in which more than one factor is at play and there is more than one truth. This is making it extra difficult for leaders to adapt their style of leadership.
A crucial characteristic for VUCA times is that employees are constantly looking for leaders who can acknowledge their own challenges and willingness to try to address them. Moreover, the active learning “gene” has helped the leader to get the new skill sets under his belt as well as to be a role model, first for his team, and gradually for others. Indeed, the ability to embrace learning, “un-learning,” and “re-learning” is critical for leaders in the VUCA world, where many bodies of knowledge are changing so fast and information and insight becomes irrelevant quickly.
5 Ways to Cultivate Self-Awareness
In this article we will give you 5 easy and practical tools to develop Self-awareness
- Allow yourself some time. Leave yourself some time and space every day, perhaps first thing in the morning or half an hour before going to sleep, when you stay away from the digital distractions and spend some time alone with yourself, reading, writing, meditating, and re-connecting to yourself.
- Stay in the Here and Now. Mindfulness is the key to self-awareness. Mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”. Through mindfulness practice, you will be more present with yourself so that you can “be there” to observe what’s going on inside and around you. It is not about sitting cross-legged or suppressing your thoughts. It is about paying attention to your inner state as they arise. You can practice mindfulness at any time you want, through mindful listening, mindful eating or walking.
- Keep a journal: Writing helps us process our thoughts but also makes us feel connected and at peace with ourselves. Writing can also create more headspace as you let your thoughts flow out onto paper. Research shows that writing down things we are grateful for or even things we are struggling with helps increase happiness and satisfaction. You can also use the journal to record your inner state. Try this at home, choose a half day on a weekend, pay close attention to your inner world, what you are feeling, what you are saying to yourself, and make notes of what you observe every hour. You may be surprised about what you write down!
- Practice being a good listener. Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening is about being present in the here and now and paying attention to other people’s emotions, body movement and language. It is about showing empathy and understanding without the use of your bias. When you become a good listener, you will also be better at listening to your own inner voice and become the best friend of yourself.
- Ask for feedback and gain new perspectives: Sometimes we can be too afraid to ask what others think of us, yes sometimes the feedback may be biased or even dishonest but you will be able to differentiate them from real, genuine and balanced feedback as you learn more about yourself and others. Research has shown conducting 360 degree feedback in workplace is a useful tool to improve managers’ self-awareness (Source). We all have blind spots, so it is helpful to gain different perspective to see a fuller picture of ourselves.
This is the third article in a series of articles that the Leadership Academy Amsterdam will publish during 2019 about the Leadership of the Future. See for the first two articles here below: