Leaders with self-awareness are more effective

great leaders Nelson MandelaAnalyses of the characteristics of a good business leader have tended to focus on qualities like toughness, determination, intelligence and vision.

However, there has been a growing body of thought, first pioneered by American psychologist and author Daniel Coleman in 1995, that the truly great business leader is one who also possesses emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a combination of empathy, social skill, self-awareness and self-discipline, the so-called soft skills that distinguish the most effective business leaders from the merely good.

It should be no surprise that the business leader with self-awareness is the one most people would like to work for and the one who is generally the most productive. It is obvious that people will go further and work harder for someone who, they feel, listens to them, respects them and shows that their contributions are valued.

Developing self-awareness requires honesty

Using a SWOT analysis of yourself can be helpful as a way to identify which soft skills you have and which may be lacking or need more work.

While you may find that one of your strengths is to be a good communicator, for example, and therefore able to get your message across, are you also a good listener?  This could be a weakness that might need further developing.

How about your ability to negotiate? Managing conflict and producing a successful resolution is a key skill for effective leadership.

It may be that some of your behaviour goes back to incidents or past experiences, even from childhood, that have resulted in self-protective behaviours that you may not even be aware of. It can be useful to think over significant incidents in the context of the SWOT analysis and see whether they represent weaknesses or threats to you that have resulted in blind spots or destructive emotions.

While some of this analysis may be painful, and all of it requires you to be honest with yourself, once you have identified your weaknesses and threats, practise will help you to develop those areas where you feel you are lacking.

If you want to be a truly effective leader cultivating, refining and developing your self-awareness to improve your communication, management and motivational skills will be time well spent.

Remember, she, or he, who shouts loudest or is the most ruthless doesn’t ultimately get the best results.

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