Most leaders want to learn, grown, and ultimately better at their job. They want to gain tools and build strategies that address the challenges they face in their role. However, they are less inclined to take a step-back and look within to identify weaknesses that lead to problems.


Leaders are human beings like everyone else. The reality is that although they may exude confidence and self-assurance, they don’t have all the answers and can often be wrong. The most successful leaders are the ones who are aware they are not infallible. Recognising this fact is why they succeed.


Self-awareness provides a whole host of benefits. It helps you get better because you have a clear picture of how well you are currently doing. It helps you make the right decisions because you know your blind spots. It helps you do great work, because you remember past mistakes and don’t repeat them. Essentially, being self-aware is being self-knowledgeable.


The Butterfly effect


When a manager takes time to explore their own perspective and how they function, big changes can happen in their organisation. A butterfly effect takes place. A change in the behaviour of leadership creates a ripple affecting others at every level of the organisation. A leader is in a position to help others overcome their own challenges.


But acknowledging one’s own shortcomings isn’t pleasant. So rather than tackle the issue, many simply avoid it altogether or fail go beyond a surface-level examination. Weaknesses include many things, many of which are not obvious at first glance such as personal assumptions, fears, and worries. These must be considered too alongside more obvious weaknesses such as missed deadlines, financial losses, and poor communication.


But the focus shouldn’t be purely on the negative. Strengths are important too. After all you are offering your skill set and leadership style everyday. But in order to improve you need to reflect and identify areas for growth and personal development.  


The Human Side of Leadership


Planning, budgeting, and solving problems are all very important. But leadership doesn’t end there. People want to relate to leaders on a human level. Relationships that are built solely around increasing productivity and efficiency don’t work very well. Leaders who relate to their team in a detached and clinical way breed discontent very quickly. The most effective leadership styles have a distinctly human character. Leadership mentor and author Lance Secretan states:


“Great leadership is about human experiences. It’s not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.”


Before attempting to understand the needs, values, and emotions of others in their organisation leaders must work on themselves. They must know the good, the bad, and the ugly about their own strengths and weaknesses. They should understand what it is that underpins their strengths and the reasons for their shortcomings.


The type of leadership Secretan refers to highlights the human side of organisation management. Getting disparate departments (e.g. design and accounting) to work together cohesively can be challenging. Differences in approaches to work can cause major disagreements and personality clashes can put a halt on progress. Leaders who understand the complex dynamics of human relationships can skillfully navigate such issues to cross boundaries and create mutual understanding. In order to do this, they need to have a solid understanding of their own values and emotions.


Overcoming reluctance


Undoubtedly for some, this will come across as a bit too “touchy feely”. But it’s hard to argue with facts. There is now a mountain of evidence to support the notion that self-aware leaders are better leaders.


When leaders don’t stop to reflect on their own behaviour and actions, it’s almost impossible for them to improve. When leadership stagnates in this way, employees will feel that the organisation is stuck in the past. Attracting and retaining millennials will become increasingly difficult. Indeed this is a problem many companies are only beginning to wake up to now.  Millennials, perhaps more so than other employees, desire to be engaged, seen and recognised when they perform well. What they don’t want is to feel like a small cog in a very large machine.


Old-school traditional managers are often confused by this line of thinking. ‘We’re here to get things done! Why are employees so needy?’. But modern employees don’t want to have the same sort of career their parents had. They are drawn to dynamic workplaces, where leaders understand it is their responsibility to learn, change and improve.


At the risk of sounding cliché, the best leaders start with the man in the mirror first. The thing holding the others back is a reluctance to accept they don’t have all the answers. This is short-sighted and ultimately, counter-productive. Instead, leaders should explore becoming more self aware through training or executive coaching. There are a wide range of options and approaches available.


Everyone has issues. Don’t let yours get in the way of being a better leader at your organisation.



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