Self-Awareness as a Foundation for Great Leadership

The future of work depends on people, and how they are led will determine how they perform. So how are you leading your people and where are you on your People First journey? At first glance, this appears to be a simple question but a deeper look might reveal that you are not able to answer it as easily as you initially thought. There are so many keys that are essential to being a successful leader, but self-awareness may very well be at the top of that list. If you do not know where you are, you will not know what steps to take or where you need to go. In order to continue on the People First path, it is necessary to identify what path you are currently on! 

Along with being aware of the people you work with and their various likes/dislikes, habits, pet peeves, and personalities, you should also maintain a similar level of awareness of yourself. A detailed understanding of the internal logic behind why you feel a certain way or why you are drawn towards a specific decision can be extraordinarily helpful. We all bring our own perspective, experience, and bias to any situation in which we find ourselves and it is essential that you have the ability to recognize what perspective you are inhabiting. If we think of our own perspective as “normal” then we automatically devalue differing perspectives and create a chasm between our personal ideas and external perspectives. However, being able to name our perspective and compare and contrast this with other experiences and ideas allows us much more flexibility to navigate situations where there is no simple group consensus. 

Another reason self-awareness is crucial to success is that when we are self-aware, we are consistently checking in on ourselves. In some earlier blog posts this year, I discussed the importance of checking in on New Year’s Resolutions. If we “set it and forget it” we are much less likely to follow through with our resolution than if we are consistently checking in and refocusing on our goal. In the same way, self-awareness allows us to check in on ourselves. This practice gives us a moment to take inventory of where we have been spending our time, focus, and energy and can give us hints as to what adjustments or nudges we need to give ourselves in order to find our way back to our chosen path. It might help to think about the practice of self-awareness as simply a meeting with a key stakeholder. If you are not consistently communicating with a key stakeholder on a project, you will eventually stray further and further away from the intended goal. However, when you meet consistently, you become more and more familiar with their tendencies and ideas and are able to shape much more effectively. In this case, you are the key stakeholder! Ensuring that you are checking in with yourself consistently will help keep you on track and will also allow you to work more effectively with your team.

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About Amy Lafko

As a Physical Therapist, Amy spent years in school learning best practices for patient care and how to put the patient first. Like so many technically skilled clinicians, she advanced to a leadership role. Spending 20+ years in operational leadership, she had an epiphany: Putting the customer first isn’t the path to success or fulfillment. Rather, the most successful organizations and practices put their people first – and exceptional customer care, profitability, and effectiveness naturally followed.