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Self-awareness: 5 tips for leadership success

An ex-colleague was recently asked to step down from a high profile role in the City. This came as a monumental shock. They’d been delivering some excellent results; the only problem was, they’d not been communicating them powerfully enough to senior stakeholders, who only saw an affable person with a laid back attitude.

A lack of self-awareness can be seriously career limiting – and it’s the little things as well as the big things that get in the way.

  • What you see as directive, assertive communication, your team sees as rude, upsetting and confrontational.
  • What you think is energetic movement in a presentation, they see as aimless pacing and erratically flailing arms.
  • When checking your phone, what you see as keeping tabs on emails and consulting the latest trends, they see as disengagement and rudeness.

Self-awarenessRecognition of your strengths and limitations; an appreciation of your values, beliefs, identity and purpose; an ongoing drive for self-development.

So how can you increase your self-awareness at work?

  1. Define your goals: start by getting crystal clear on what you want to achieve – there’s no point in increasing your self-awareness if you don’t know where you’re going.

    objectives force you to commit to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic / Relevant and Time-bound actions.

    To take your motivation to the next level, make your goals BIG: Brave, Inspiring and Ground-breaking and visualise how amazing it will be once you’ve achieved them.


  2. SWOT yourself: a SWOT is a great one-stop-shop for assessing your internal Strengths and Weaknesses and the external Opportunities and Threats that could support and hinder your development. Then consider which niche you’d like to represent, what key strengths and weaknesses you’ll need to maximise/minimise and which opportunities and threats you’ll need to capitalise/mitigate to achieve your


  3. Explore your blind spots: another tool for increasing self-awareness is Johari’s Window, devised by Joe Luft and Harry Ingham, who observed that there are aspects of our personality that we’re open about and others we keep to ourselves. I’ve often found that when leaders choose to reveal more of their personality at work, they come across as more authentic and trustworthy as a result. For a downloadable copy <click here>
  4. Seek feedback: There are a number of ways you can make feedback part of
    your working culture. Build it into meetings with colleagues, clients, line managers
    and direct reports. Request it as part of your events or projects.
    For example, distribute a feedback form after a presentation or ask members of the audience for their views.


  5. Reflect regularly: When a task has gone particularly well – or badly – ask yourself what was it that you did, or didn’t do, that made the difference. To increase awareness of how you come across, ask a colleague to video you and watch it played back, paying particular attention to your voice, body language, posture and tone. It may be painful, but it’s a great way of identifying what you did well and what you could do to improve. 


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