Management

Self-Awareness is an Important Leadership Skill

The ability to be self-aware allows a leader to capitalize on their strengths and lean on others in areas of weakness.

Across business sectors, different talents, personalities, and traits are necessary for success. But across all industries, there is one important characteristic of a good leader: self-awareness. The ability to be self-aware allows a leader to capitalize on their strengths and lean on others in areas of weakness. It instills trust in subordinates, and fosters a workplace of cooperation and collaboration. Self-awareness is a skill worth cultivating regularly as a means of continuous growth for any company and leader. 

What is Self-Awareness?

The basic definition of self-awareness is “awareness of one’s own personality or individuality” which includes traits, skills, abilities, perceptions, and biases. Self-awareness includes awareness of how we are perceived by others and how our actions affect others, as well as awareness of strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and opportunities for growth. 

Self-awareness is a key element of emotional intelligence, or the ability to identify and manage emotions for effective relationships. Emotional intelligence has been shown, time and again, to be an important factor in leadership success. 

Emotional intelligence and self-awareness both include the humility to acknowledge limitations and weakness, along with the ability to acknowledge mistakes and move forward. 

How is Self-Awareness Developed?

Self-awareness is developed through openness, curiosity, and introspection. Identify key weaknesses and strengths and how they can be perceived as positive or negative in different settings. Get feedback from trusted friends, family or colleagues. Consider when best to utilize certain traits and when to rely on others. 

It can also be useful to identify external factors that trigger certain behaviors and feelings. Understanding and planning for reactions can help to manage unwanted emotions or personality characteristics and rely more on the most useful traits for a situation. 

Self-awareness is a constant learning process. Self-aware leaders want to learn more about their behavior and emotions and how these affect others. Finally, assess behaviors and strengths in light of values and priorities as a leader. Which qualities would you like to further develop to improve leadership ability?

Signs of a Self-Aware Leader

Self-aware leaders exhibit a range of skills and emotions that demonstrate their comfort with their own abilities, and those of others. Some signs of a self-aware leader include:

  • Humility — This includes intellectual humility. The ability to recognise that you don’t know everything.
  • Growth mindset — Self-aware leaders recognize that there are always opportunities for growth and improvement and actively look for ways to improve. 
  • Lean on others — Self-aware leaders are more willing to delegate to others or request help in areas of weakness. 
  • Let others shine — Self-aware leaders are comfortable allowing others to be the star and highlight their accomplishments to build up the team.
  • Acknowledge mistakes and move on — Self-aware leaders are more easily able to acknowledge when they’ve made a mistake, learn from it and move on. They don’t try to cast blame or hide the mistake from their team.
  • Consider biases — Self-aware leaders know that we all have implicit biases from our background, upbringing, society, beliefs and more. These leaders are willing to examine their own biases and ask for help so they don’t influence decision making. 
  • Look from another perspective — Self-aware leaders realize that everything can be perceived from different perspectives. An enthusiastic leader might be considered inspiring, or pushy. A meticulous employee might be considered inefficient or thorough. Being able to look at different perspectives makes a self-aware leader more aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and those of others.

Benefits of a Self-Aware Leader

By recognizing their strengths, weaknesses, biases, and areas for improvement, self-aware leaders demonstrate vulnerability and confidence that instills trust in their subordinates. If the leader is able to acknowledge where they need help or hold someone else up, it sets an example for the team. 

Self-aware leaders cultivate an organizational or business environment that is focused on growth and continuous improvement, rather than individual egos. This fosters teamwork, collaboration, and inspiration to build on past success. 

Self-aware leaders can also help cultivate more self-awareness in subordinates, creating introspection and team-building from the top down. Self-awareness reduces employee conflict, hurt feelings and tension because everyone is working together as a team. 

Continuous Growth

Self-awareness is not a static state. It is the continuous process of seeking out trusted feedback, examining one’s own emotions, behavior, biases, strengths and weaknesses and working to align those with a personal vision. Self-awareness is the ability to say, “I’m not there yet, but I can get there”, rather than, “I can’t”. 


Self-awareness is one of the most important skills for a leader to build trust. It is a key tool to cultivate collaboration and harmony in the workplace. The intention and regular focus on self-awareness will not only create better leaders, but will benefit the business from top to bottom. 

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