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Self-Awareness the Secret Sauce of Leadership

I was having an interesting conversation with a client recently, and we were talking about what makes a good leader a great leader. And we both decided the first step was really someone who is self-aware.

Although most people believe that they are self-aware, true self-awareness is a rare quality.

This is an essential tool for leaders because according to research, when we are self-aware we see ourselves more clearly, we are more confident and are more creative. Self-aware individuals also make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and are able to communicate their message more effectively.

For leaders to lead a team, they first have to lead themselves. For this to happen they need self-awareness and resilience. Someone can be good at something but not necessarily good at leading others.

We, as leaders, can have a positive effect on others but we can also unassumingly have a negative impact. In order to have a deep impact on people in a positive way, it’s important to become self-aware, become team-aware, and organisational-aware.

What is self-awareness?

It means understanding your strengths and weaknesses. But gaining self-awareness is nothing close to simple. It is being knowledgeable and understanding the different aspects of the self including traits, behaviours, and feelings. However, it is not something you are acutely focused on every moment of the day.

The Four Stages of Learning

The Four Stages of Learning is also called the Conscious Competence Matrix or the Conscious Competence Ladder. When we learn new skills, we are at different levels of experience at each stage.

There are a few levels when it comes to self-awareness:

● Unconscious incompetence

This is when you don’t know what you don’t know. We may be unaware of how much we need to learn.

● Conscious incompetence

This is when you know what you don’t know. You are aware of the skills that you lack.

● Conscious competence

You know what you know and are aware of the skills you have.

● Unconscious competence

We don't know that we have this skill, but we don't focus on it because it's so easy and it comes so natural to us. At this stage, you do the activity or action without conscious thought.

A good example of this is when you are learning to drive. When you are just starting to learn how to drive, this is the unconscious incompetence stage. You don’t even know what you don’t know when you start learning. You are not aware of the skills that you need in order to drive. A few days after driving lessons, you start to know what you don’t know. This is the 2nd level - conscious incompetence. Now, you understand that there are a lot of smaller details you need to focus on when driving. The third stage is the conscious competence. When you have been driving for a little while and get used to it all, you are now aware of the skills you have learned. You are now aware that you know how to drive. Then the last stage is unconscious competence. This is when you have been driving for a long time now and you do things without conscious thought. Driving becomes natural to you and you don’t even have to think about each task you need to do in order to get from one place to another when driving. As leaders, we want to grow that part of our competence to make us self-aware so that it’s part of our everyday essence. In order to do so, we must first lead ourselves.

Until next time, Eat the Frog, Get the Worm, Be the Bird and flex your Self-Awareness Muscle. What do you know you know? What do you know you don't know? and what do you know so naturally, that you don't even realise you know?


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