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The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You

Ironically, the more self absorbed we are, the less self-aware we are.

Self-awareness is vital to the development of a leader. But it's not navel-gazing. It is not an inward focus. It is an outward focus. Its ultimate goal is to improve our connection and effectiveness with others.

The self absorbed leader struggles with self-awareness and emotional intelligence because self-awareness is about how we are perceived by others. It's about understanding how our behaviors are affecting other people. And we just can't do that by focusing on ourselves.

It is easy for us to focus on ourselves—to think people just don't understand us. And when we do, we tend to rationalize rather than grow. Explain rather than listen. Disconnect rather than lead.

Self important leaders can't see how they are sabotaging themselves because they focus on their needs and feelings and not those of their followers. Consequently, they don't encourage feedback because it never seems relevant to them. An inward focus dooms us to operate from a place of weakness—never able to see what is holding us back.

It is in the character of great leaders to have a great appetite for feedback. It's a gift and still the best way to gain an awareness of ourselves. You might think of it as a personal scorecard.

To see where we need to grow, we need to see how we affect other people. Only then can we begin the introspection that will lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and learn to move past unproductive thinking and develop new behaviors.

More: The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You - Redux

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Of Related Interest:
  12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness
  Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:52 PM
| Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1) | Personal Development


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Human beings—and that includes most leaders—are relational. Self-leadership is fundamental to good leadership, but it is not the end-game. Self-awareness for self-awareness sake has a limited value. Through introspection and reflection we can get t... [Read More]


First off, I think it's important to clarify one essential distinction in this post.

I agree completely with how you describe self-centeredness and that in order to be a true leader you must have awareness of how your actions are impacting those you lead.

On the other hand there's a huge difference between be self-centered and self-aware.

All true awareness begins with self-awareness, awareness of you own inner thoughts and emotions!

Granted being impulsively obsessed with oneself and your own self interest is one thing but let us not confuse it with self-awareness which is 'being' aware of oneself internally.

Therefore, Self-awareness is first and foremost in being a true and genuine leader. Without self-awareness there can be no external awareness of others!

German, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would agree that there is a huge distinction between self-centeredness and self-awareness. And self-awareness is "awareness of you own inner thoughts and emotions." The best way to get a window into your own inner workings is by seeing the impact your behavior has on others. Otherwise we tend to deceive ourselves and justify our behavior based on own self-talk. So I would consider it step one—the first place we should look when trying to handle on who we are. (For example, we can be rude but justify it as honesty.)

Thank you for the response Michael. I think I may be missing something here but maybe you can help clarify it for me.

In your post you begin with saying that "self-awareness is vital to the development of a leader", to which I totally agree with. On the other hand you continue by saying:

"It is not an inward focus. It is an outward focus. Its ultimate goal is to improve our connection and effectiveness with others."

I beg to disagree on this part. I do agree that self-awareness is an important element to "improving our connection and effectiveness with others" but to say that it's the "ultimate goal" is a bit of an overstatement. I believe that its both an inward and outer focus, a harmony of both.

In your respond you say that the "best" way to see your "inner workings" is by seeing the impact your behavior has on others.

While I don't completely disagree, i wouldn't go as far as saying its the "best way". It IS "a way" to help in your self-awareness journey but as stated before, all awareness begins with becoming aware of your self first.

Using the example you gave in your response to illustrate this point, if we tend to deceive ourselves by justifying our behavior, what's to stop us from deceiving ourselves when looking at the impact we make in others or any feedback for that matter? Hence, the importance of self-awareness as an inward focus first and then outer focus for reinforcement.

Your thoughts would be most appreciated. Thanks!

German thanks for this discussion. I do believe that we must first be aware of ourselves—the good and the bad—but ironically, we accomplish that more fully through our relationships with others. More in the next post

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