Characteristics of Self-Aware Leaders

[fa icon="calendar"] October 21, 2015 / by Ray Van Gilst

creative_light_bulbFirst of all, let me set the record straight. If you’re not self-aware, all is not lost.  The good news is, self-awareness is a skill that can be learned. If you want to grow your self-awareness, you can. If you want to develop your team’s self-awareness, you can. You just need to know what to look for.

So what do self-aware people know that other’s don’t?

Understand their emotional impact on others 

Of all the characteristics of self-aware people, this is the most endearing. Self-aware people understand their own emotions and actions and the impact of their emotions and actions on others. That sounds simple, but the implications are staggering.

Think about it. How many times have you had a bad day only to not know why you’re having a bad day? How often has your mysteriously bad day had a negative impact on your spouse, your kids and your co-workers? Far too often, right? Me too. That’s what self-awareness and emotional intelligence start to address in leaders.

Self-aware leaders refuse to let a bad day on the inside spill out to others on the outside. Self-aware people just don’t have many of those days. Sure, they might not feel great. But they realize their mood has an impact on others, and they regulate it. I want to be around people like that.

Recognize their weaknesses

Nobody likes to admit they have weaknesses, but we all do. The longer I lead, the more I realize how few things I do really well. Self-aware people understand their weaknesses and limit their activities in areas they aren’t gifted, which creates space for others to shine, and allows them to spend most of their time working from their strengths. 

It takes real humility for a leader to admit where they're not strong, but if you want to become more self-aware, understand your weaknesses and start acting accordingly.

Lead with their strengths

While it may take humility to acknowledge your weaknesses, it doesn’t take arrogance to acknowledge your strengths. Someone who understands their strengths is not inherently egotistical; they’re just self-aware. Arrogant people can just as easily work out of their weaknesses as their strengths.

So…don’t be afraid of understanding and leading from your strengths.

Know their limits 

Everyone has limits. As much as some of us push back on them, they’re still there. Self-aware people know what level their tank is at and behave accordingly.

When they need a break, they take one. When they’re tired, they acknowledge it and take responsibility for getting some rest. When they’re running on all cylinders, they give whatever they’ve got to whatever they do.

Ironically, a leader who knows their limits often operates much closer to their limit than a leader who has no idea that they’re tired, over capacity or heading for a crash.

Bottom line: 

  1. Do you see yourself the way others see you?
  2. Do you understand how you affect them?

If the answer to those questions is yes, good job! If the answer to either of them is no, then be sure to re-evaluate.


Topics: Equipping