Volume 10, Number 11
Mirror On The Wall
Geist is a professional speaker focusing on business-oriented
He is author of Would You Work For You? (Addington & Wentworth, Naples, Florida,
Of course you
know yourself! You
would recognize yourself anywhere.
However being really aware of who you are—knowing what is
of utmost importance to you, realizing where your strengths and
weaknesses lie, being conscious of how your value system stacks up
and managing your inner self—is more complicated and has more
far-reaching implications to your leadership abilities than might
appear at first glance. If
you didn’t know who you really were, would you want to work for
you? Would anyone else?
Leaders have been
applauded for their brainpower and their technical skills.
No one would deny that intelligence and cognitive skills
are essential for outstanding leadership.
However, studies by David McClelland and Daniel Goleman
indicate emphatically that emotional intelligence, recognizing and
managing your own feelings and behaviors, have profound influence
on our effectiveness as leaders.
More to the point, Goleman found that emotional
intelligence was twice as important as technical skills and IQ for
jobs at all levels. For
leaders, it accounts for 85 to 90% of a star performance.
are self-aware seldom experience great inconsistency between the
way they see themselves and the way people see them.
They are likely to deal with new experiences realistically
without much anxiety or discomfort and without the need to “go
on the defensive.” The
psychologist Carl Rodgers contended that self-aware people exhibit
ten characteristics that would make you want to work for them:
An open-mindedness to new experiences without being
The ability to change without fear in response to new
The ability to demonstrate trust in themselves and their
feelings, to do what “feels right,” trust their gut instinct.
The ability to seek out new experiences, new challenges,
Regard themselves positively and accept themselves.
Have a positive regard for others and accept them.
Maintain a sense of being in control of their own lives,
responsible for their own actions.
Their lives may be described as enriched, exciting,
rewarding, challenging, and meaningful.
They are always stretching and developing more of their
They live life fully, striving forward.
against these characteristics.
In which areas do you feel you would benefit from
tremendous value of taking a realistic view of yourself.
From a leadership perspective it helps if you see yourself
as you really are because this is how others are more likely to
see you. Becoming
fully self-aware involves recognizing our skills, abilities,
values, needs and goals. It
involves appreciating our own individual qualities: our
intelligence, confidence, shyness, imagination.
Of course to be at all valuable, our self-awareness must
also involve confronting those negative aspects of our character
which would adversely affect our capabilities as leaders.
These include impatience, intolerance, intransigence and
lack of empathy. We
then become aware of our interpersonal styles, our motives,
assumptions and coping mechanisms.
The benefits to our business of such an outlook are
of Self-Aware Leadership
Just imagine how
these principles might work in practice. As a highly self-aware leader, you decide to alter your
schedule so that instead of arriving at work around 9:30 am, you
get into the office at 7:00 am.
Very soon you find that you’re accomplishing more in
those two-and-a-half hours than you used to in an entire day.
As a highly
self-aware leader, you ask for assistance in “crunching the
numbers” because your strength is marketing, not accounting.
As a highly
self-aware leader, you let your very demanding client do most of
the talking and complaining, while you do most of the listening
and acquiescing, because you realize they need the chance to
“get it out of their system.”
As a highly
self-aware leader, you realize your own worth to an organization
and expect a competitive salary.
However, you are ready to let a very highly paying job go
by because you know you will be unhappy working in a huge,
As a highly
self-aware leader, you are comfortable talking about your
strengths and weaknesses, and often look for constructive
criticism in order to improve.
Those who are not self-aware see the need to improve as a
threat or a sign of failure.
Can your degree
of self-awareness be altered?
Certainly! It is a long-term effort, but the rewards to
both your business life and your personal life are so substantial
it is certainly worth doing.
Steps to Develop Accurate Self-Awareness
Know your strengths and weaknesses.
Get to really know yourself, from the inside out.
Take action to enhance your listening skills, your
motivation, your empathy for others—or whatever needs improving.
Focus particularly on the business aspects you want to
a real business situation in which your heightened emotional
skills would be beneficial. For
example, by using a more intuitive listening approach to everyone
in meetings—colleagues and subordinates alike—the number of
options brought up for discussion could be greatly enhanced.
Assess your behavior in important situations.
Do you react differently to different people—your family,
business associates, workers?
Do you react differently in different situations?
Are you patient? Relaxed?
Why? What can
you do to make your behavior more consistent—more positive?
Emulate a role model.
Look for someone who is self-aware, who listens well, whose
passions encourage others and whose drive is an excellent example
to follow. Watch
closely how that person interacts with others.
Visualize yourself in that person’s role—and picture
the way you would conduct yourself in similar circumstances.
“Patterning” is an excellent method to change existing
behavior into new, more desirable behavior.
Ask for feedback.
Solicit input from colleagues, staff, friends and family.
Accept their comments as observations and suggestions
toward improvement—not as criticism.
Keep in mind that others see you from a different
perspective and, in many cases a much more objective perspective
than you see yourself. Research
has corroborated this—finding a much higher correlation between
the accuracy of feedback and the reality of the situation than
there is between your own impression of it and the reality.
Considering the feedback of others widens the window
through which you see yourself.
Keep a journal. Document
observations and efforts to change.
Regard lapses as learning experiences.
Regard small improvements as triumphs.
Reread old journal entries to remind yourself of the
progress you’ve made. This
method broadens and clarifies perception very quickly.
Practice, practice, practice.
New behavior patterns take time to become automatic.
One day you’ll find you no longer need to think about the
behavior you’ve tried to establish; it’s just there.
But be patient. It
Ask the right questions.
Answers to the “right” questions require reflection and
a willingness to improve. Ask
“why?” questions. Why
am I leading the way I am? Why
do I make the decisions I do?
Why do I get angry—impatient?
If I were to leave the organization, what would be the
reaction among my colleagues and staff?
Work toward your goal.
Take the “eulogy” test.
What do you want said about you when you “shuffle off
this mortal coil?” Write
it down. Start making
the changes necessary to be the person you want to be remembered
Take a flexible approach.
Recognize that the person you are now is not the same
person you were last year or will be next year.
The environment, our circumstances, our relationships are
evolving—they demand change, flexibility.
Remember yourself as you were yesterday, know yourself as
you are today and anticipate yourself as you will be tomorrow.
Do the same for all those with whom you come in contact.
yourself—really knowing who you are—has everything to do with
business leadership and nothing to do with business leadership.
Becoming a more self-aware and perceptive person has
everything to do with life, no matter where and with whom you
live. The precepts
outlined are for everyone, everywhere.
To know thyself precedes the ability to know anyone else.