“A leader knows who they are, and who they are not

In our “Leaders Are…” series, we’ve built the trust, learned through curiosity…and coached. Now, we are turning the lens back on ourselves. Self-awareness is an important attribute that good leaders share.

A close colleague of mine and business leader, Jen Marshall, shared this insight, “A strong leader has excellent self-awareness. They are confident in who they are, and who they are not. They surround themselves with a strong team with skills different than theirs.” She helped me see how self-awareness acknowledges the good, the not so good, and is a source of teambuilding.

Self-aware leaders know what they are good at, at what they are not so good at. For me, I know I am good at leading discussions, but I am not so with details. I align my experiences and work with what I am naturally strong at, and minimize the opportunities to do the detail-oriented work that I am not as good at. I am vulnerable and admit it, while expressing confidence. People know I am being genuine, and they really respond to it. I beg for forgiveness, just ask my accountant! I rely on others to help fill in my gaps.

To expand your self-awareness, I recommend starting with a simple self-inventory. A SWOT is often used for companies in strategy, but the same applies to leaders. Here are some proven tools to self-discover your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats:

  • DiSC®: This helps leaders understand their natural tendencies as they relate to four dimensions—dominance, influence, steadiness, and consciousness. The framework is based on contrasting factors that influence our behavior—preferred pace, task-orientation vs. relationship-orientation, and many others. It’s a comprehensive assessment with a full battery of proven questions. It is helpful in assessing our styles and informs us about how to flex our style when working with others. I often coach using the DiSC® assessment when working with teams on communication and teamwork.
  • Myers Briggs®: It is similar to DiSC® in that it focuses on personality types based on four indicators. Each indicator has two choices, creating a total of 16 unique styles pertaining to introversion/extroversion, information, decisions, and structure. The difference here is that this is often used introspectively, with tools to uncover possible career paths and align interests with personality style. Leaders often utilize it to better understand their personalities and what types of professions would best align with their interests. Because of its popularity, this is a tool that is easy to share with others to explore similarities and differences. It is simple to take and interpret, and helps us understand how we think, learn, and behave generally. I often leverage this tool in my coaching because it is a simple tool and helps gain a base level of self-awareness.
  • StrengthsFinder®: Gallup has a list of 34 strengths based on our common talents. They range from Achiever®, Competition®, Analytical®, Empathy®, to Woo® and Learner®, with many more. This assessment tool is similar to those mentioned above in that there are no “right” strengths. The tool prioritizes all of the strengths, with descriptions and themes expanding on the strengths. Similar to DiSC® and Myers Briggs®, this tool helps us recognize the strengths in ourselves and establishes strategies for maximizing our talents, with application in everyday life, along with recognition of others’ strengths. Leaders that have taken this often share their top five strengths verbatim, and admit to keeping a sign on their desks to share with others. I often lead workshops or work with clients individually, helping leaders internalize their strengths, explore strategies to better leverage those strengths, and to better understand how we work with others.

Based on these inputs or other assessments or tools, think about your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

  • Strengths: What am I naturally good at?
  • Weaknesses: What am I not so naturally good at (as hard as I may try)?
  • Opportunities: What are some opportunities I will leverage?
  • Threats: What are some challenges I will overcome?

Once you have your personal SWOT in hand, think about the experiences that will best leverage your strengths and opportunities, while minimizing your weaknesses and threats. As leaders, we want to surround ourselves with teams that help us be better leaders. If we have a weakness, it’s okay to let others help us. It’s more about aligning our role to experiences we will naturally excel, and delegating or coaching others to excel in areas where we are not naturals.
Great leaders share their SWOTs with their teams. It demonstrates vulnerability and builds trust, which, over time, improves their business results.

How will you expand your self-awareness?

Next time, we will explore “Leaders Are…Challengers”. The series will continue with “Leaders Are…” influential, celebrators, developers, accountable, and visionaries.

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