Self Awareness: A Quality Evident in Every Great Leader

“Know thyself”

Despite its brevity, this quote by Socrates conveys a very powerful meaning, “after all, all knowledge simply means self knowledge,” as Bruce Lee very aptly stated.

Self-awareness is having profound knowledge of your strengths, weaknesses and shortcomings. It is being conscious of your emotions and the impact they can have on others in your vicinity.

Self-awareness can mean different things for different people. For some it means being aware of their emotions and what influences their outlook and behavior. For others it means being aware of their priorities, preferences, the values they stand by and the goals they want to achieve. For some it also means being aware of what they are good at and what they still need to learn, to become better individuals.


For leaders, however, self-awareness first and foremost means to have a clear understanding of the impact their emotions, actions and behavior have on the rest of the organization.

Self-awareness is one of the most valuable competencies evident in every great leader. It enables leaders to better understand their subordinates’ reactions. It endows them with the ability to comprehend why a colleague or employee does not want to communicate or collaborate with them, and make amends. It helps leaders to look at things from others’ perspectives and practice empathy, which is crucial to the success of any organization. It boosts effectiveness and promotes flexibility.

But how can you become self-aware?

Several studies have proven that self-awareness is the quality that leads to executive success. There are vast amounts of literature available on the internet, addressing this very question. We, at Proawitz Leadership Inc., have scoured through these articles and outlined some of the most effective strategies you can incorporate to become a self-aware leader.

  1. Notice yourself

Self-awareness is a skill that can be nurtured and it begins by reflecting on who you are, figuring out who you want to become, understanding how you affect your surroundings and the kind of environment you create. By being in the moment and analyzing your behavior in the moment, you can become more self-aware. Ask yourself how you would react to your actions if you were on the receiving end. This is extremely important as it will enable you to pinpoint the root cause of your subordinates’ reactions and make amends to your outlook and behavior.

  1. Make notes

Peter Drucker in an article in the Harvard Business Review, has cited a self-reflection process called ‘feedback analysis’, envisioned by a 14th century German theologian, that aids leaders in their self-awareness development. The process involves making intensive notes of what a leader expects will happen once they take a key decision, and comparing it with the actual results several months hence. Warren Buffet, for example, has the habit of writing down all the reasons behind each of his investment decisions. Upon implementation, he then reflects and assesses the outcomes. Such analysis can not only provide qualitative but also valuable quantitative data about an organization’s strategies and their effectiveness.

  1. Be aware of others too

As a leader, it is highly critical that you are aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses too. High performing teams consist of members who have varied skill sets, and at the same time complement each other. Diversity in a team is essential to increase productivity and achieve goals. Leaders can further their self-awareness by being amidst different types of people and staying open-minded. Such a set-up can help leaders to identify the things they do well and the things others in the organization do well. This awareness will help them delegate work to the right set of people and boost productivity.

  1. Conduct a 360 Degree Review

Jack Zenger, an author of several leadership development books, opines that having a 360 degree review process can help leaders to become self-aware. Ideally, this system should not take into account inner feelings or measure intents and motivations. It must purely assess the impact a leader has on his subordinates, his peers and his bosses. The data availed will be the most objective insight a leader can use to become more effective. For “the most valuable self-awareness comes from data that originates with the colleagues you serve”.