When we think of the best leaders, we often think of qualities like visionary, strategic, and inspiring. Self aware doesn’t usually top the list . And yet, a study shared by the American Management Association looked at 72 executives at public and private companies (revenues from $50 million to $5 billion) and found that a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.
In the Leadership Circle Profile 360 Assessment that I now use with my clients, self awareness is correlated to leadership effectiveness at .79. Only Relating and Achieving were more strongly correlated.
I’ve had the good fortune to work with a few highly self aware leaders. One stands out in my mind. He is a life long learner and relentless supports his team in self improvement efforts. Years ago, when he knew I would not stay long with the organization (I trusted him enough to reveal my bigger goals), he gave me paid time to search for my new career direction in exchange for finishing a big project. He even set up some meetings for me with his esteemed network.
He lives his core values every day. He is not perfect. In fact, he often made fun of his shortcomings, including his short stature. He is not threatened by people smarter than him. A good debate makes him come alive. And he would thrill when his team members had the spotlight.
He’d had a challenging beginning in life. Instead of calcifying against it, he used his history to propel him forward, rising to ranks he wouldn’t have thought possible as a kid with a life defining health issue, starting out in another country.
And lest you think he was all about self deprecation and being nice to people, he created results too. He was able to bring about significant HR changes to a very large and complex health care organization with very strong minded senior management colleagues and an overbearing board of directors.
I’m pretty certain his leadership circle profile would paint the picture of an evolved leader, playing mostly in the creative realm versus the problem reacting world.
Sadly, my experiences with other leaders have not always been so positive. Interacting with a less self aware leader has left me feeling bullied, beaten down and shaking my head wondering which end was up.
Companies with these types of leaders have a limit on their growth potential, if for no other reason than at some point, the leader will be rowing the boat alone.
Whatever camp you fall in, opening up to some self reflection and feedback can be a doorway into stronger leadership. And no one could argue with that.