3 Ways to Make Self-Awareness Work Better for You

“Self awareness involves deep personal honesty. It comes from asking and answering hard questions.” Stephen Covey


Often when organizations evaluate their leadership talent they assess their Learning Agility. It is no wonder. According to a 2014 Korn Ferry Institute study companies with highly agile executives have 25% higher profit margins than their peers.

Also according to Korn Ferry, the 5 factors of Learning Agility are as follows: Self Awareness, Mental Agility, People Agility, Change Agility and Results Agility. That said, in her book, Becoming an Agile Leader, Victoria V. Swisher mentions – “the one learning agility factor that stands out as a common benefit to all (factors) is Self-Awareness”.

Indeed self-awareness plays a pivotal role in agile leadership. However, it is often understood quite simply as a knowledge of what someone is, or is not, good at. In fact there is much more to Self-Awareness than many realize, and below are some ideas on how to make self-awareness work better for you.

When Self-Awareness Becomes Meaningful


When it is about more than your strengths and development areas.

As mentioned earlier, leaders who are self-aware may associate self-awareness with knowing what they do well and what they don’t. However, there is a depth to self-awareness that goes beyond this surface perspective. It includes knowing how you feel and react in certain circumstances, what beliefs and values drive your behaviors and even what experiences in your life inform your opinions and perspectives. It is in this deeper mastery of self-awareness that leaders gain access to greater impact.


When you utilize your self-awareness to do things differently.

Although leaders may begin to do the deeper reflection as mentioned above it is still possible that the impact of this knowing is incremental. In fact, there are leaders who will enjoy knowing more about themselves – and will solicit copious amounts of feedback from their stakeholders, attend programs to help them better understand themselves, even go to therapy – yet at the end of the day little observable evolution happens for them. This results in a lack of trust from others.


"Self-awareness only becomes meaningful when leaders are ready to take the bold next step. "

That is, reflecting on what they have learned about themselves and through personal leadership, utilizing their insights to formulate an intentional approach to grow themselves. This can happen in many ways such as participating in peer development groups, journaling, mentoring, or working with a coach. An evolving leader (human and imperfect) has far greater credibility with their team than a stagnating one.


When it creates greater resilience in your leadership.

One significant outcome of greater self-awareness is resilience. Self-aware leaders are able regulate their internal reactions to external triggers much more effectively. And because they operate through a proactive understanding of their own beliefs, values and purpose they are able to respond authentically and more efficiently in the face of unexpected challenges.

The good news is, greater self-awareness can be learned. However there is a caveat, the first step. Scott Burkin, in his 2012 article “Can Self Awareness Be Taught?” calls this the paradox of self-awareness. “To become more self-aware you have to be self-aware enough to realize how self-aware you are not.” And this really is at the crux of the quest for greater self-awareness. Because we can certainly pursue it and achieve it – if we can embrace the idea that there is (still) much more to know about ourselves.

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