LEADING SELF: Starts with self-wareness

“Leading self” starts with self-awareness. Successfully leading an organization first requires managing yourself: Your thoughts, emotions, actions, and how you interact with others.


What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, communication and leadership styles, and emotional intelligence. It is both how you perceive yourself and an understanding of how others see you. Self-awareness requires a mindset that is curious and open to learning about yourself as a means of personal improvement.


Why does self-awareness matter?

Choices: Self-awareness brings choice; the more you understand your behavior, the more you are able to decide whether to continue acting that way or to change how you respond the next time.


Learning opportunities: Having self-knowledge allows you to identify skills or attitudes to cultivate through personal development.


Break habits: Self-awareness can help you pause before you speak or act so that you resist your trigger points and respond appropriately to the situation or circumstance.


Interpersonal relationships: Knowing what makes you tick can also help you work better with others since you can be more open to understanding them on their own terms rather than just through the lens of your own disposition.


How do I become self-aware?

There are two primary ways to learn about yourself.

  1. Introspection: Self-awareness can come from thinking deeply about why and how you interact with others and respond when action is required. Becoming conscious of your emotions, habits, and perceptions is not easy. Using assessments and diagnostic surveys can provide a language and present concrete examples that prompt self-reflection.

  2. Input from others: The second road to self-awareness is external feedback. A colleague, friend, or relative can help you examine yourself by describing how they perceive your behavior. Their more objective observations can enable you to think more clearly about yourself and offer direction about what to focus on as you assess yourself later in this chapter.

The Johari’s Window model.

The Johari’s Window model is a simple and useful tool for illustrating and improving self-awareness and mutual understanding between individuals within a group. The Johari Window model was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955 while researching group dynamics at the University of California Los Angeles.

There are two factors at work within the Johari window. The first factor is what you know about yourself. The second factor relates to what other people know about you.

The model works using four area quadrants (see below model):

  1. Anything you know about yourself and are willing to share is part of your open area. Individuals can build trust between themselves by disclosing information to others and learning about others from the information they, in turn, disclose about themselves.

  2. Any aspect that you do not know about yourself, but others within the group have become aware of, is in your blind area. With the help of feedback from others, you can become aware of some of your positive and negative traits, as perceived by others, and overcome some of the personal issues that may be inhibiting your personal or group dynamics within the team.

  3. There are also aspects of yourself that you are aware of but might not want others to know. This quadrant is known as your hidden area. When you let someone open this window on you, you will create trust between yourself and that person. You decide when, where, how, and how often you want to receive this feedback. When you want to open this window on someone else and give feedback, ask permission first – don’t just pounce; that destroys trust. Opening this window requires compassion and kindness.

  4. This leaves just one area, namely the area that is unknown to you or anyone else – the unknown area.



If you want to use the Johari Window to support your individual growth and personal development, you should be prepared to undertake two fundamental tasks:

  1. Ask for and welcome feedback

  2. Disclose information about yourself and allow yourself to be vulnerable

The more you do this, the more of your area of untapped potential you can access. In a professional setting, this leads to better workplace relationships and increased performance. We often link this to the importance of developing strong professional relationships and having genuine conversations in our own model of high performance.

When all the members of a team understand these fundamentals, they are in a great position to help each other develop to their full potential.


You can’t be a good leader without self-awareness.

It lies at the root of strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a sense of purpose, authenticity, openness, and trust. It explains our successes and our failures. And by giving us a better understanding of who we are, self-awareness lets us better understand what we need most from other people, to complement our own deficiencies in leadership.


Source and inspiration: University of Colorado and Harvard University

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