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Leadership Competencies - Part 6 (Self-Awareness)

The Relationship Model

Although the responsibilities of those in leadership vary, there are a number of competencies that are common to all of them. In this series of six articles, we have looked at the competencies that are needed in a Chief Executive Officer, Board Chair and Board Member, Senior Manager and Pastor.

Competencies are aspects of a person that make one successful at what one does. They are a complex combination of underlying characteristics, being influenced by that person’s values and beliefs, motives, personality traits, self-image and attitudes as well as skills and knowledge.

We can determine a person’s competencies by observing their behaviour. The more effectively and consistently they display the behaviours associated with the respective competencies, the better their leadership performance. A person’s competencies therefore, are a window through which we can glimpse the person’s capability.

Self-awareness — accurately assesses personal strengths and weaknesses and manages them effectively.

Increasing self-awareness is one of the characteristics of increasing maturity. The better a person knows oneself, the more accurately one can assess areas that require personal development and the better one can assess one’s capabilities and inner resources (values, faith, character traits, personality, gifts, motives, emotional responses).

Self-awareness is like a window onto one’s strengths and weaknesses. There are some people who have good awareness of their strengths but find it too difficult to acknowledge their weaknesses. That ability requires self-esteem.

Although related and sometimes used synonymously, the two competencies are different. Self-awareness is about self-assessment and control. Self-esteem is about self-image and confidence. These two competencies often work in harmony with each other, the one building on the other so that it is sometimes difficult to tell where one finishes and the other begins.

Leaders who have good self-awareness and good self-esteem, know themselves well enough to recognize and acknowledge when they have reached their limits. These limitations might be in areas of personal knowledge, understanding, skills or gifting. Such leaders acknowledge the point at which they need other people.

Acknowledging the need for others and being willing to employ their strengths is part of being a good leader. It is a characteristic of strength rather than an admission of weakness. To depend on the abilities of others without being threatened by them brings all-round benefits to the team. Those whose skills are utilized feel affirmed, involved and motivated and the team achievements are maximized.

A leader who is willing to freely acknowledge that others have greater ability in particular areas of competence sets a positive example. Seeing those strengths acknowledged and utilized develops an open culture where people are not afraid to admit personal limitations and their need of help. A learning culture is fuelled from which everyone benefits.

Good self-awareness is based on a knowledge and understanding of one’s personal value system. A leader with good self-awareness recognizes the personal values that give rise to particular responses.

Acknowledging the values that lie at the heart of an emotion, thought or behaviour helps a person understand why one reacted in a particular way. Such understanding helps in recognizing and managing the responses effectively rather than causing unpredictable outbursts and expressing the negative ones destructively.

Recognizing that emotions are an indication of health rather than weakness, one can acknowledge them without embarrassment. They are neither suppressed nor denied but are understood, controlled and managed until they can be given expression at an appropriate time and place and in an appropriate way.

Such self-knowledge and the ability to control emotions provides a leader with a personal “shock absorber” allowing oneself to stay composed and balanced, particularly when under pressure or in a crisis. When challenged or criticized, this “shock absorber” gives a person the ability to respond constructively.

Good self-awareness characterizes a person who acknowledges and celebrates one’s strengths. At the same time, one is clear about areas of personal weakness. Both strengths and weaknesses are acknowledged and managed effectively.

When self-awareness is enhanced by a positive self-image, the leader is free to depend on others without being threatened by their strengths.

Les Stahlke, President/CEO
GovernanceMatters.com Inc.