Emotional Competence: Self-Awareness.
You know him. We all do – that leader whose blind ambition and narcissism requires him to win and be right at all costs. How about the one who pushes everyone so hard she leaves a wake of burned-out corpses? Aren’t we all familiar with the leader who imposes his personal agenda so intensely he’s oblivious to other perspectives or opinions? What about she who is addicted to recognition and glory, who takes credit for others’ accomplishments and blames everyone else for her failures?
When considering such leaders, do we think they act those ways intentionally? Do we imagine that when they wake up in the morning they say to themselves, “Today I’m going to be as insensitive and abrasive as I possibly can.”?
To me it seems more likely that this is a lack of self-awareness.
I was having a deep conversation with someone I knew in high school, and she revealed that the impression I exuded back then was being stuck-up and conceited. I was shocked! I told her I considered myself to be a total dweeb in high school, the lowest of the low. The discrepancy between how I saw myself and how she saw me was huge! Self-awareness was very small in me then. It probably still is, but I hope a little larger now.
Being able to accurately assess our own strengths and weaknesses is an emotional competency high performance leaders possess. The high performance leader is not only able to accept, but actively seeks candid feedback. Self-development is her mantra.
Don’t take my word for it. In one of the many studies related to this topic, hundreds of leaders from twelve organizations were examined, and accuracy in self-assessment was a predictor of high performance. (Accurate self-assessment in managers: Richard Boyatzis, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1982).
In his 2011 book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman states, “It’s not that star performers have no limits on their abilities, but that they are aware of their limits— and so they know where they need to improve, or they know to work with someone else who has a strength they lack.“
Take two leaders with the same flaw. One is caught up in appearing perfect, doesn’t want to hear about the flaw, or rationalizes it away, living in denial. The other is willing to hear about it, accept it, work on it, and work with others who can compensate for it. Which leader would you prefer to follow? Which leader would you prefer to be?
Two ways to gain a more accurate self-awareness: ask people closest to you to be very candid (and hope the have the courage to do so) and take a scientifically validated Emotional Competence Assessment.
By experience I know, as you probably do too, that getting a reality check on how we come across to other people can be painful. But it’s worth it to dissolve those costly blind spots and move us toward a more enlightened view of ourselves. May self-awareness abound in us all!
By Doug Lundrigan, MBA
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