One of the key drivers for successful leadership skills, in my opinion, is the ability to understand yourself (i.e. self-awareness).  Without knowing how you are going to react to situations, what your biases may be, or challenges you may enjoy or try to avoid, it’s difficult to then understand those in your team and inspire best

Let me give you an example.  A lady I know has recently started working with someone she’s been friends with for years, but this time in a business setting.  All this time she’s known and accepted that he is matter-of-fact, direct and provides praise sparingly.  However, when discussing work that was extremely important to her, her own preferences and values around recognition, encouragement and positivity, weren’t met.  Instantly this made her question her abilities, whether he was interested in the topic and whether this business relationship was even likely to continue.

Fortunately, this lady has developed self-awareness through our coaching, and was able to take a step back, remind herself about her colleague’s preferred and natural way of behaving, and take from the conversation what was actually being conveyed, rather than an interpretation influenced solely by her values.  She was able to quickly adjust her thinking in relationship to her colleague’s style and needs, and continue the business discussion positively.

Without that awareness, she could so easily have come away discouraged, or have even ended up confusing and frustrating her colleague by diverting away from the business at hand to ask direct questions designed to get the responses she needed.

Have you found yourself reacting negatively to a colleague’s style that you don’t understand?  Have your own insecurities been triggered by the remarks or actions of those around you?  Do you steer away from difficult conversations, as you feel uncomfortable?  A lot of the time, you might not even be aware of how you’re feeling or reacting in response to a given situation, or how this might be impacting those around you.

Self-awareness is one of the most important aspects in developing great leadership skills: once you know what motivates you, stresses you, triggers certain behaviours in you, you can then appreciate the differences in others and find it much easier to adapt your style to your teams needs.

In management, it is important to identify and value the differences individuals bring to the success of the team and the organisation; building on this where it works well.  Each manager’s leadership style can contribute to a positive and progressive team or, if unaware of their impact on others, could breed stress and conflict.

If we take the above example, do you prefer:

  • To make decisions on the basis of logic and objectivity, quick to see errors and give a critique, step out of a situation in order to analyse dispassionately, task focussed?
  • To make decisions on the basis of values and personal convictions, quick to show appreciation and find common ground, step into the situation to weigh human values and motives?

And do you know how to work with someone who has the opposite preference to you?  If you prefer the former, consider the needs of others for harmony and positivity, provide feedback gently, critique behaviours not people and include personal needs in decision making.  If you prefer the latter, detach from the situation and view it objectively and logically, be clear and precise, and don’t personalise feedback or when others like to debate or challenge.

There are many management tools which can help leaders develop a greater understanding of themselves and the different working styles of their team, such as some of those I use, like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) instrument and Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument.  There may also be the opportunity to use some NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) techniques to help with understanding what affects behaviour.

To find out more about the options available to help you gain improved self awareness click HERE.



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  7. Norman Calcagno

    I imagine this has to be some form of evolutionary trait to better understand what kinda individual someone is. Whether they are out to get remorse, or if they are mean, a foe and dangerous. Most people would need to understand how to react to them.

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