A Self-Aware Leader



In my last post, I discussed leaders’ self-awareness. In summary, self-awareness is being conscious of how one’s leadership is perceived and received by others. It is taking time to be aware of how your decisions and communication are received, and to think about how you can make small adjustments to become a more effective leader. Increasing self-awareness is one path to growing your #PersonalLeadership strengths to reach your leadership goals.

A few weeks ago, I observed a leadership team meeting in which a leader shared observations about his own leadership style and how others on his team react to his (strong) leadership style. The conversation exposed the leader’s self-awareness and his planned responses for the benefit of team performance. This leader shared how he manages his strengths to allow others to participate collaboratively, a great example of his self-awareness as a leader.

The leader started out facilitating a discussion of a recent team decision-making process. After each team member had a chance to speak, be heard, and be asked clarifying questions, he shared his experience in the decision-making process. The leader pointed out that two of his strengths are vision and creative problem solving. He is aware that all members of the team deferred to his opinions and preferences, and waited for him to make a decision instead of recommending their own path forward. They like and defer to his solutions, but he wants to move the team to collaborative decision-making. He shared that as his own self-awareness increased regarding how this team functions, he quietly implemented strategies to ensure that other team member voices are heard and that multiple perspectives are considered prior to making a team decision.

Examples of his strategies to gain the input of all team members:

  • He does not interrupt a discussion to state his own opinion,
  • He contributes only after all other team members have shared their thoughts and recommendations, and
  • He asks, “What do you think?” more often than he offers solutions.

While this leader has a clear vision for the work of this leadership team, he is attempting to build the capacity of members of the team to make decisions, while empowering their confidence in their own ability to do so.

collaborationI appreciated this short group reflection process, and commended the leader in his vulnerability to share how his self-awareness is leading him to shift how he interacts with the team. His intended result over time is to build a team of leaders, not to stay a team with one leader to whom others default their opinions and decision-making.

This example of self-awareness inspired me to be more transparent as I reflect on my own leadership interactions, to not only reflect on how I am received, but to discuss it with my team and get feedback for my own growth and for the benefit of the team.

~ @atraversDE

#PersonalLeadership: Self-Awareness


In our exploration of personal leadership development, a key starting point, according to leading research, is self-awareness.

What is self-awareness and why should leaders be self-aware?

Self-awareness is the key cornerstone to emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman. The ability to monitor our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment is key to understanding ourselves better, being at peace with who we are and proactively managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Goleman (2015) states that self-awareness concerns knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions. According to Goleman, self-awareness contains three competencies:

  • Emotional Awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and their effects.
  • Accurate Self-Assessment: Knowing one’s strengths and limits.
  • Self-Confidence: A strong sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities.

As self-awareness increases, individuals begin to act consciously rather than react passively, to be in good psychological health and to have a positive outlook on life. This is a critical shift when focusing on how to increase the effectiveness of our leadership. Our impact on those around us is great. Others react to us largely based on factors like how we present ourselves, our confidence and our communication. This is one area in which most individuals can constantly grow.

How can increasing my self-awareness benefit my leadership in my school or district?

One of the most important things an education leader can do is to build positive, trusting relationships with as many individuals as possible, from school staff, to students, parents, and community members. Focusing on increasing self-awareness can help leaders keep their own strengths and limitations in mind, their own emotions in check, and grow their ability to read the emotions and body language of others around them, thereby increasing their ability to form lasting relationships. It is critical that leaders understand how their leadership style, as well as their words and actions, are perceived by those they serve and those they lead, in order to continue to craft their leadership and be effective in their role within their school or district. While building relationships sounds like something innate to all humans, we can see by looking around us or checking out social media that many, many individuals and leaders are not innately effective at this skill. It takes focus, intentionality, and self-awareness to become an effective leader.

What does self-awareness look like?

Anything worth doing takes time. You have limited time to focus on “self” with all of the professional responsibilities of school leadership added to personal commitments. Here are some (quick) ways that leaders can take time to become self-aware:

  • Conscious reflection: Take time each day to think about your interactions with others. How did you communicate? How were you received by others? How could you have communicated more clearly, more positively, or more effectively?
  • Evaluate perceptions: Listening to others, reflect on the things they say to you and about you, and observe their body language when they are speaking to you or in your presence.
  • Receive feedback: Ask for feedback and take it into consideration. Not every individual will accept your leadership, and that is OK, but there are individuals within your network who you can trust to give you honest feedback. While some of that feedback may be out of your control, look to find at least one truth you can use to grow within the feedback you seek out.
  • Adapt your behavior and communication based in part on past experiences, reactions and feedback from others.

In closing…

Self-awareness is not about over-analyzing every word you utter and every action you take, but about knowing how your leadership is perceived and received by others. It is about taking time to be aware of how you are received, and to think about how you can make small adjustments to become a more effective leader: day by day; little by little. It is about adopting a mindset of continuous learning and growth, so that the leader you are in 2018 is on a path to being more effective than the leader you were in the past. Increasing self-awareness is one path to growing your #PersonalLeadership strengths to reach your leadership goals.


~ @atraversDE



Goleman, D. (2015). How emotionally intelligent are you? Retrieved from: http://www.danielgoleman.info/daniel-goleman-how-emotionally-intelligent-are-you/

Zhu, J. (2017). What is self-awareness and why does it matter? Meaning +5 tips. Retrieved from: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/self-awareness-matters-how-you-can-be-more-self-aware/



What is Personal Leadership?

An often used phrase, “You Do You,” encourages individuals to take care of themselves: their own needs, interests, and desires. To march to their own drum. While a sole focus on “you” may invite narcissism and can limit one’s ability to interact with others effectively, it is important that leaders take time to learn about themselves and grow individually before they can effectively lead others and help others grow.


Reflection on one’s personal leadership style, strengths, weaknesses, and current status within each of the elements of personal leadership can give leaders the focus they need to reach personal, professional, and organizational success. Focusing on awareness and opportunities for growth within personal leadership elements can also allow leaders to best support the teams and individuals they are responsible to lead. In the words of Maya Angelou, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” I would add, “and where you are.” Leaders who focus on personal leadership development become leaders who are equipped to successfully develop those they lead.


Join me as I begin to explore the elements of personal leadership, tools for assessing current individual status within these elements, and ways to grow and become better leaders for those we serve.


~ ATraversDE


Drop a comment here letting me know an area of personal leadership you’d like us to first explore!