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Self-Aware Leaders Hone These Two Habits

In our last blog (, we learned that despite 95% of us feeling pretty self-aware, research shows only 10-15% of us are actually self-aware.

With self-awareness being one of the most highly rated traits of great leaders, it looks like we all have a lot of work to do.

Part of the difficulty with self-awareness is that it is comprised of two mutually exclusive parts: internal and external self-awareness.

Internal awareness is our own identity of what makes us tick, what we need to fill our cup, what we enjoy or dislike and why, etc., while external awareness is accurately understanding how others see us.

It is possible to be really good at one and completely miss the other.

Authentic leaders hone habits that promote self-awareness. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that only authentic leaders seek to improve their self-awareness, because the truth be told, under the surface none of us are really that great. When the layers are peeled back, it takes someone who deeply values authenticity to fully take in, understand, and work on the muck and mire of their true selves.

For those of us willing to be authentic leaders, here are two practical habits we can implement now to promote both internal and external self-awareness:

Internal Self-Awareness Habit: Schedule a repeating meeting with yourself. We often fill our calendars with everyone and everything else to the detriment of who we are as a human being. Since internal self-awareness can only come from accurately understanding your internal thoughts, you are the only one who can make it happen - with yourself and by yourself. This means carving out (and fiercely protecting) self-reflection time to think about and unpack your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be long. It may be the first five minutes of your commute to and from work. It could be as you walk between meetings (if you actually have in-person meetings). It could be journaling or praying the first 10 minutes after you wake up. It doesn’t matter when it happens, it only matters that it happens. This is dedicated time to think. We don’t do that much anymore. Think about who you are and who you want to be. Think about moments you enjoyed in the day. Think about frustrations or discouragements you experienced. Need some prompts? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do I shine?

  • Where do I struggle?

  • What did I enjoy today/yesterday?

  • What did I wish went differently today/yesterday?

  • What am I worried about today/tomorrow?

  • What am I excited about today/tomorrow?

External Self-Awareness Habit: Get comfortable asking others you trust to review a situation with you. You can never be fully self-aware without an external perspective to inform your biases and blindsides. Perhaps you have a standing quarterly meeting with people you don’t normally work with. Ahead of each meeting, reach out to someone who attends that meeting and ask them if they would be willing to meet up with you afterward to provide feedback on how they read the room’s response to you. This gives them a heads up of what you’re looking for so they are prepared when you meet afterward. Taking them to lunch or buying them a warm drink as a sign of thanks for their time is worth the cost for what you’ll get in return.


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