If you go back to our post about what the four core leadership skills are, you’ll notice the big emphasis that was put on self-awareness. What makes self-awareness so important?
One aspect of this importance is that all three of other core skills rely heavily on a person being solidly self-aware. If you don’t know yourself, it’s hard to really know who others are beneath the surface. The other part of the self-awareness equation is this: improving your self-awareness builds the confidence needed to step into your full leadership potential.
Why self-awareness comes before the other three core skills
The other three core leadership skills – relationship development skills, communication skills and personal growth and productivity habits – are certainly important. But they will all have a limited impact on a person’s leadership potential if the self-awareness piece isn’t in place first. All three of these skills have an element of self-awareness in them.
In order to build significant relationships with the people you intend to lead, you need to be able to understand how your followers are perceiving you. Having a sense of where you’re at in terms of developing trust with another person means taking a look at the efforts you’ve made to draw that person toward you.
I recently read this great one-liner about trust:
“Trust is my firm belief that you have my best interests in mind.”Alan Weiss, from Million Dollar Coaching
Trust is rarely built overnight, and if you’re struggling to get people to warm to you, you’ll likely have to change your approach to how you relate to them. Knowing your current approach takes self-awareness, as does altering it.
Effective communication also requires knowing yourself in a deep way. There are several key mediums of communication (public speaking, writing, one-on-one conversation, etc.) and it’s very rare that one individual can excel equally in all of them.
Finding, knowing and growing your communication method of choice takes self-awareness. We won’t even go into the role that self-awareness plays in actually executing in one of these dimensions (that will come in a future post).
Finally, good personal development and productivity skills require that an individual:
- knows what they are doing with their time (aka “time management”)
- knows what their key areas of improvement and opportunities for personal growth are (I recommend taking the ELI for this!)
- can put together an action plan to pursue anything that falls under point #2 (this may require some help)
How does self-awareness build confidence?
Confidence comes from achieving desired outcomes.
When we score that game-winning goal, we become more confident that we can score future game-winning goals.
When we cross off all the major items from our day’s to-do list, we become more confident that we can be just as productive tomorrow and in the days that follow.
When we stand up and speak well in front of our peers, we become more confident in our abilities to publicly share our most important beliefs and messages.
Self-awareness gives us the power to see where we need to grow in order to score the game-winning goals, crush our day’s top tasks, and knock our speech out of the park. It also gives us key insights into what our natural strengths are, so we can maximize our chances of performing to the best of our ability.
The more aware we are of our personal pros and cons, the more we can steer ourselves toward what some people call our unique “Zone of Genius.” This is a place where we can get our most important things done, and as mentioned earlier, this is how our self-confidence takes a big leap forward.
How does confidence increase your leadership potential?
Confidence is a must if you aspire to lead anything, even it’s just your own life that you want to lead!
At the end of the day, confidence is our belief in something; thus, self-confidence is a measure of how much we believe in ourselves.
Alright, now for the less obvious point: an individual’s self-confidence level is like a radio signal to their potential followers. The more true confidence a person has, the stronger that signal gets. And the stronger that signal gets, the broader the audience a leader can attract, and the deeper their leadership can go.
Confidence is one of the most attractive qualities that an individual can have. A person who believes in themselves is often optimistic, charming, playful, and a pleasure to be around. Now these qualities aren’t enough on their own to make someone an effective leader, but they are great attributes that potential followers can pick up on and attach themselves to.
The greatest gift I’ve ever received in life is the confidence that others have shown in me. Being believed in by someone you look up to is an amazing feeling, and the leader who builds confidence in others is someone who is making a profound connection with their followers.
If you are going to give the gift of confidence to someone else, you first need to have some degree of it yourself. It’s painfully hard to share an emotion you don’t already experience yourself.
How do you build greater self-awareness?
There may be a bunch of different answers to this question, but here’s mine: greater self-awareness comes from facing adversity and engaging in self-reflection.
Robin Sharma is a renowned leadership coach who has written a number of international best-selling self-help books. One of them is The Leader Who Had No Title, and it has an entire chapter focusing on the idea that “adversity creates the greatest leaders.” (I’m translating that from the French version of the book I read, so I apologize if that quote is slightly off!)
Adversity is the iron that sharpens our character. Adverse, difficult moments reveal who we are when we’re not at our best, and reveal ways we can grow ourselves."Adversity is the iron that sharpens our character." Click To Tweet
The more adversity we face in our lives, the greater our chances of building resilience become. I equate resilience to our belief (ie. confidence) in our ability to bounce back from hard times. We need resilience to get pick ourselves up and keep trying to move forward, because the more progress we attempt to make in any pursuit, the more we learn about ourselves.
When we achieve a desired objective, win, overcome our greatest fears, etc., we learn about our strengths. When fall short, lose, or give in to our fears, we learn about where we aren’t as strong, and where our greatest opportunities to grow lie.
Self-reflection gives us a chance to look back on all of the moments of our lives and take stock of how we showed up. It lets imagine who we want to be, and what the difference between our present and future self is. It gives us insight to help plot the path to our future selves, one moment at a time.
The more we know about our strengths, weaknesses, gifts, triggers, habits, reasoning, emotions and intuition, the more we know ourselves. And that is what self-awareness really is.
The more at ease we are about ourselves, the more confident we become in who we are, as this video illustrates:
How do you avoid becoming overconfident or arrogant?
Some wise person once said, “everything in moderation.” This applies to confidence as well!
There can certainly be a tricky balance to play between being confident and getting cocky, and the remedy for those who are venturing toward the latter is, of course: humility.
If we lose our sense of humility along the way in life, we’re at risk of experiencing a number of fairly negative setbacks. Social isolation, closed-mindedness, declining personal development…this list doesn’t sound great, does it?
When we remain humble, we remain curious, and when we display curiosity, we demonstrate our humility. We stop being know-it-alls. We seek to understand others before attempting to make ourselves understood. We remain grounded and approachable.
Now, overconfidence is something that’s hard to self-diagnose. Its tendency is to limit our view of ourselves to our most positive attributes and skills. How do we correct our path and avoid crashing into a mountain of arrogance if we can’t see this said mountain?
To me, regularly exploring new and uncomfortable things is the answer here. Having a “beginners mindset” and experiencing new things as an unskilled novice is an amazing way to build humility into your life.
Mastered the art of downhill skiing? Try snowboarding!
Are you the best piano player you know? Maybe it’s time to pick up a tuba and see how good your chops are there!
Are you at the top of the world in your field? Try mastering a second one. That’s basically what Michael Jordan did when he left the NBA to pursue minor league baseball.
When you consistently open yourself up to things that you don’t naturally perform well, how can you ever become too full of yourself?
What are some great resources for improving self-awareness?
There’s one book that really jumps to mind when it comes to developing self-awareness, and that’s Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Covey’s classic talks at length about self-awareness, although he doesn’t mention the term all that explicitly. His first three habits, the habits of Private Victory, are all mini-courses on different areas of self-awareness. I highly recommend checking out this book.
When you’re done that, I’d take a peak at Think and Grow Rich, the classic from Napoleon Hill. This book is over 80 years old and is still in print today, so that tells you something! It’s an amazing piece of work that really invites readers to explore how they are thinking, which might be the most important aspect of self-awareness.
Leading others means leading yourself first
It might seem ironic that to become someone of influence, you first need to know and influence yourself in a way that will make others follow you.
I don’t think there’s a way around this key pillar, and there’s certainly no shortcut to achieving extraordinary knowledge of self. Going out and living life in a really intentional, curious way is probably the best one-liner I can come up with to help point someone in the right direction.
What will you discover about yourself today? How will your confidence in yourself change as a result?
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