With our busy schedules it might be difficult to find time to think about who we are, our strengths and weaknesses, our drives and personalities, our habits and values. Besides, many of us just aren’t inclined to spend much time on self-reflection. Even when personal feedback is presented to us, we’re not always open to it, because honest feedback isn’t always flattering.
Consequently, many of us have a pretty low level of self-awareness. That’s unfortunate, because self-awareness is an essential first step toward maturing your leadership potential. Self-awareness can improve our judgment and help us identify opportunities for professional development and personal growth.
Just as being able to see your reflection in the mirror helps you to fix your hair, feedback on your characteristics and behaviors helps you to develop your leadership skills and improve your judgment. (James 1:22-25). Self-awareness–i.e., knowing your personal characteristics (temperament), and how your actions affect other people, business results, etc.–is an essential first step toward leadership maturity. Self-awareness is the antidote pride and ego, when responded to properly.
Key Areas for Self-Awareness
Human beings are complex and diverse. To become more self-aware, we should develop an understanding of ourselves in many areas. Key areas for self-awareness include our personality traits, personal values, habits, emotions, and the emotional and spiritual needs that drive our behaviors.
We don’t normally change our personalities, values and needs based on what we learn about ourselves. But, an understanding of our personalities can help us find situations in which we will thrive, and help us avoid situations in which we will experience too much stress. For instance, if you are a highly introverted person, (Melancholy or Supine), you are likely to experience more stress in a sales position than a highly extroverted person would. So, if you are highly introverted, you should either learn skills to cope with the demands of a sales position that requires extravert-type behavior patterns, or you should find a position that is more compatible with your personality. Awareness of your personality and temperament helps you contemplate such a decision, which in turn meets your needs in a more appropriate way, which brings transformation.
It’s important that we each know and focus on our values. For instance, if your first priority is “being there for your children” or “your relationship with God,” it’s very easy to lose sight of those priorities on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis. During the workday, so many problems and opportunities arise that our lists of “things to do” can easily exceed the time we have to do them. Since few (if any) of those things pertain to what we value most, it’s easy to spend too much time on lower priority activities. When we focus on our values, we are more likely to accomplish what we consider most important.
Our habits are the behaviors that we repeat routinely and often automatically. Although we would like to possess the habits that help us interact effectively with and manage others, we can probably all identify at least one of our habits that decreases our effectiveness. For example, if you are a leader who never consults your team before making decisions, that habit may interfere with your ability to build your team members’ commitment to the decisions and their decision-making skills as well.
Sholars have identified a variety of emotional and spiritual needs that drive our behaviors such as needs for esteem, affection, belongingness, achievement, self-actualization, power and control. One of the advantages of knowing which needs exert the strongest influence on our own behaviors is the ability to understand how they affect our interpersonal relationships. For instance, most of us have probably known people who have a high need for status. They’re attracted to high status occupations, and they seek high status positions within their organizations. (Choleric).
Such people also want the things that symbolize their status. They insist that they be shown respect, and they want privileges and perks that people of lower status can’t have. Sometimes these people fight for things that others see as inconsequential–like a bigger office. Needs cause motivation; and when needs aren’t satisfied, they can cause frustration, conflict and stress.
Emotional self-awareness has become a hot topic of discussion recently because it’s one of the five facets of emotional intelligence.
Understanding your own feelings, what causes them, and how they impact your thoughts and actions is emotional self-awareness. If you were once excited about your job but not excited now, can you get excited again? To answer that question, it helps to understand the internal processes associated with getting excited. Taking your thoughts, feelings and emotions captive is also a major key to maturing.
That sounds simpler than it is. Here’s an analogy: I think I know how my car starts–I put gas in the tank, put the key in the ignition, and turn the key. But, my mechanic knows a lot more about what’s involved in getting my car started than I do–he knows what happens under the hood. My mechanic is able to start my car on the occasions when I’m not because he understands the internal processes. Similarly, a person with high emotional and spiritual self-awareness understands the internal process associated with emotional experiences and, therefore, has greater self control.
Tomorrow we will begin a sub-series on Temperament and Emotional Intelligence.