Self-Awareness is core to your leadership effectiveness; here’s how to deepen yours

You’ve probably heard the expression: ‘who you are is how you lead’, but what does that really mean? And how does it influence your effectiveness as a leader? Most importantly, what can you do to deepen your self-awareness?

Self-awareness matters.

When it comes to leadership, knowing who you are at your core is important. By understanding what matters the most to you, you can begin to appreciate what you bring to your work as a leader and an individual.

As the Greek philosopher Aristotle said: ‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’

‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’


Consider those elements that are unique to you, such as your innate talents, strengths, and aptitudes. Take a moment to contemplate your personal values and principles. Combined, these inform your actions and decisions. Weaknesses and default patterns—especially the ones that surface under pressure—are also part of who you are.

You’ll also want to reflect on the ways in which you view the world, and how you typically behave and interact with others. These attributes are what allow you to appreciate your unique style as a leader and the impact you and your behaviours may have on others.

All of these things contribute to defining who you are as a person. They also inform the ways you react to everyday situations, though you may not realize it at the time. Therefore, the more you know about who you are, the better you can understand what contributes to your best performance—as well as what gets in the way.

For example, if you’re inclined to perfectionism, how does it show up when you work independently? How about when you work with others?

When I coach leaders or facilitate professional development programs, the process of helping leaders gain a deeper sense of themselves is a key part of the work we do together. I make it a priority for the simple reason that a high level of self-awareness is directly linked to leadership effectiveness.

The more leaders know and understand about themselves, the better able they are to use those insights to their advantage—whether it means doing more of what already makes them effective or less of what gets in the way. Often, it’s a little of both.

How can you deepen your self-awareness?

When it comes to gaining a good sense of self, there are lots of practical things you can do; here are just a few to help you get started:

Become a keen observer of yourself.

Become a keen observer of yourself and combine it with daily reflection and journaling. For example, at the end of a day, take a few minutes to reflect on your experiences that day and make a few notes: what went well; what went off the rails; what do you appreciate about the role you played and the contribution you made in each case? What might you want to do more of another day, or do differently another time?

Use assessment tools to deepen your awareness.

Use assessment tools to deepen your awareness. Diagnostics and assessment tools of all kinds are readily available to help you learn more about yourself and your leadership. For example, your innate strengths or your emotional intelligence. Tools such as these can help you deepen your awareness of who you are and how you typically behave as a leader. I’ve also created a complimentary Leadership Self Assessment to help you learn more about the areas of your leadership that really matter right now.

Ask close colleagues for feedback.

Close colleagues are another great source of feedback. Work with a buddy, mentor or coach who will give you impartial feedback. This can be especially helpful when you want to gain a better sense of the impact you may be having on others, or when you are working on a specific area of your leadership.

Consider a 360-feedback process.

For a truly comprehensive look, you’ll want to consider a 360-feedback process that allows you to invite colleagues who know you and the ways you work to provide confidential, anonymous feedback. Here again, there are lots of options to choose from. I prefer to work with the Leadership Circle Profile; you can learn more about this powerful methodology here.

When it comes to leadership effectiveness, a little knowledge and self-awareness go a long way. The more you know about yourself and what makes you tick, the better able you are to lead in ways that contribute to your best, most effective self.

Try it out for yourself and see what happens. As you do, celebrate each step you take as well as the insights you gain about yourself along the way. Do it consistently, and watch your effectiveness and confidence flourish.

Michelle Lane

Michelle Lane is a leadership development coach, consultant, and facilitator with 40 years of diverse leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Michelle can be reached at

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