September 13, 2018

Developing self-awareness for today’s leaders

Leadership is all about the collaboration between the leader and his or her people. A leader simply cannot exist without people who believe in his or her vision. There are different types of leaders but there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to leadership.

As a business leader, you must be able to understand your people at a deeper level and adapt in order to effectively lead them. And to understand them better, you need to understand yourself and become more of your own person.

You probably understand the importance of being self-aware. But many of us are not as self-aware as we might think. It comes naturally to us to go about our days without reflecting much or second-guessing ourselves.

But why is it so important to be more self-aware? A lack of self-awareness means there’s a higher chance of isolating yourself from others because of the misunderstandings that can occur. As a result, you create some limitations for yourself in terms of the way you interact and work with others, limiting your overall effectiveness.

Here’s how you can begin becoming a self-aware leader.

First, do some self-reflection and look back at your behaviour and interactions with others. To begin becoming self-aware, you must practise observing your own self. You must understand what your weaknesses are, what biases you have, and the experiences you’ve gone through that have shaped you.

Your biases are what affects your actions towards others, so being aware of them and keeping them in mind is useful when communicating with others. The assumptions you have and the immediate reactions you have are driven by your biases.

Upon self-reflection, also understand what drives you and what triggers certain reactions. Again, becoming aware of these things helps in better understanding yourself and your journey towards better self-awareness.

Second, accept your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes. It is easy to accept all your strengths but embracing your weaknesses is equally important. It is not enough to just accept them; you must truly understand them and be able to adjust and improve yourself if necessary.

Accepting and learning about your mistakes and failures opens up your mind and builds on your experiences. At the end of the day, we’re all humans. There’s no such thing as perfection and the faster you accept this, the better it is for you to become a more effective and self-aware leader.

Third, listen and open your mind. It is definitely difficult to keep an open mind with some people. This happens because we don’t try hard enough to listen. Instead of listening to understand, we tend to listen to respond.

When it comes to truly listening, however, it should be the other way around. To truly listen to someone is to show empathy and effort towards truly understanding them. You cannot begin to be a more self-aware leader if you’re not open at all.

Additionally, when you listen and open your mind, you’ll be able to understand the impact of your actions towards your peers and your own people in the organisation. You’ll also be able to get some great feedback from those around you and gain a greater understanding of yourself from he perspective of other people.

Last, always evaluate your own behaviour alongside your beliefs and values. To become self-aware is a difficult but a truly valuable journey. In order to sustain and maintain awareness, you must make sure that you’re still staying true to your beliefs and values.

With anything related to self-improvement or development, sustainability is the key. If you’re not able to function consistently as a self-aware leader, then it is easier to fall back into your old habits and old ways of doing things. In order to avoid this, constant evaluation of your own actions and impact on others is critical.

Self-awareness is more of a journey than a destination to arrive at. You are constantly self-reflecting and understanding how your actions affect other people’s behaviours. It is a way for you, especially as a business leader, to be more attuned to your people and your customers. As a self-aware leader, you can bring your organisation a new level of success.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre.  She can be reached by email at or

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