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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cristina DiPietropolo

Leaders: How much have you invested in self-awareness?

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

A couple of years ago, a very interesting reflection on great leadership was proposed to a group of executives interested in learning more about Emotional Intelligence. Participants were asked to describe three kinds of bosses: an outstanding one, a lousy one, and an OK boss. Listing the characteristics of the two first ones was easy, but describing the last one became quite a challenge. The OK boss was defined as someone who gets the job done, maintains the status quo, but does not rock the boat or serve as an inspiration to others. People are not willing to walk the extra mile with an OK boss. By the end of the discussion, there was a question that everyone in the room was invited to answer: What kind of leader are you? In order to answer this question, one fundamental element is self-awareness. Knowing ourselves clearly contributes to more effective leadership, more satisfied employees, and more profitable companies[1].

Self-Awareness positively influences team performance. In a research by Korn Ferry, 92% of the leaders with multiple strengths in emotional self-awareness had teams with high energy and high performance. On the other hand, 78% of the leaders low in emotional self-awareness created negative climates. Self-awareness also impacts stock returns. In another investigation by Korn Ferry, the stock performance of 486 publicly traded companies was tracked over a period of 30 months. Results indicate that organizations with a greater percentage of self-aware employees consistently outperformed those with a lower percentage.

Self-awareness is the starting point of leadership, according to Bill George, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School. It is the foundation of Emotional Intelligence[2]. It refers to the ability to accurately recognize our emotions when they happen, and to understand our tendencies for responding to different people and situations[3]. Lack of emotional self-awareness can be a relevant derailer for leaders.

Self-awareness consists of two dimensions: an understanding about one’s self-resources, and of how one is perceived by others[4]. The understanding of your self-resources in a leadership context includes:

  • Being aware of your emotions, leadership traits, strengths, weaknesses, core values, motivations, desires, and purpose or calling.

  • Understanding why emotions occur, and how such emotions and behaviors impact your performance.

  • Being honest in terms of your positive and negative biases.

  • Understanding how people influence your emotional state

  • The perception of your impact on others is also a very important step in the development of self-awareness competences. Some aspects under this dimension are:

  • Being focused on how you are perceived by your team members and on how your behaviors affect other people.

  • Noticing the everyday interpersonal processes in the work environment.

  • Understanding your influence on other people.

  • Being open to feedback.

  • Focusing on the development of connections with your team members.

  • Being attentive to you team members’ perspectives, hopes, goals, strengths, and developmental needs[4].

The development of self-awareness competencies enables leaders to act with authenticity and conviction, according to Diana Bilimoria from Case Western University. It provides a solid foundation for self-confidence[2]. The more self-aware leaders become, the more they will be able to build a work environment full of engagement and positive results. “Self-awareness, perhaps the most essential of the emotional intelligence competencies, is the ability to read your own emotions. It allows people to know their strengths and limitations and feel confident about their self-worth” [5].

How much have you and your company invested in the development of your self-awareness competencies?

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Dr. Cristina Rosario DiPietropolo is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience across multiple industries and highly skilled in the areas of strategic planning, organizational behavior, human resource management, change management, and leadership. Over ten years of teaching experience as a university professor of management, with a special focus on leadership in entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, and international management.


[1] Eurich, T. (2018). What self-awareness really is (and how to cultivate it). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 11/06/2020. [2] McKee, A., Boyatzis, R. E., Johnston, F., & Johnston, F. (2008). Becoming a resonant leader: Develop your emotional intelligence, renew your relationships, sustain your effectiveness. Harvard Business Press. [3] Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. TalentSmart. [4] Taylor, S. N. (2010). Redefining leader self‐awareness by integrating the second component of self‐awareness. Journal of Leadership Studies, 3(4), 57-68. [5] Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2001). Primal leadership: The hidden driver of great performance. Harvard Business Review, 79(11), 42-53.

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