What is the key to leading yourself and being a great leader?
Don’t Google it – just tell me what is the first leadership quality or phrase that enters your mind.
If you guessed self-awareness, you are right! Being self-aware helps us see ourselves clearly and understand who we are as a leader. Equally important, having self-awareness helps us understand how others see us. So, now the second question – are you self-aware?
“As a leader, the first person I need to lead is me.
The first person that I should try to change is me.”
– John Maxwell
Well, according to research, 95% of people say they are self-aware. That’s nearly everyone – shocking, right? Well, studies support that only 10 to 15% of people are ACTUALLY self-aware; which means we have a lot of internal work to do to raise our self-awareness and become a better leader.
So, what’s the secret? Introspection.
What is Introspection?
Introspection is the observation or examination of one’s own mental and emotional state, mental processes, etc.; the act of looking within oneself.
When the world around you is moving fast, introspection is hard. You just keep moving onto the next task, email, or “fire” in the office. However, introspection is where transformation and growth occur. The biggest reason we struggle with introspection is that we tend to focus on “why” things happen. We harp over “why” and sometimes feel sorry for ourselves instead of focusing on what we learned and how to move forward.
So how do you break out of the “why” or over-analyzing when being introspective?
3 Questions To Ask Yourself When Being Introspective
To raise your awareness through introspection, you can start by asking yourself three questions.
What story am I telling myself?
We are born storytellers. Often, we write stories in our minds before they ever happen. In the midst of a challenging time or difficult project, step back and ask yourself….. “what story am I writing in my mind?”
And most importantly, ask yourself if this story is true or are you just making assumptions? Do you have facts to back up the story, or are you projecting your own worries and fears onto others?
What am I doing to contribute to this problem?
This is a hard question to ask because it makes you take ownership of your faults or weaknesses at times. Sometimes, we have to step back and allow ourselves to see how we could be making something more challenging. Consider how you can:
- Improve a process
- Communicate in a clearer way
- Assign a more specific goal of objective
- Implement a new technology
- Have a difficult conversation
It’s impossible to raise your self-awareness unless you’re willing to take credit for your faults and areas to improve – we all have them; we are all human.
What tool do I bring when looking at this problem?
“I suppose it’s tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”Abraham Maslow
Think about what you can offer to solve the problem but, keep in mind you will bring your experience and see from that lens. Maslow’s Law of the Instrument is a cognitive bias that involves an over-reliance on a familiar tool. In other words, we often try to solve problems with the only tools we have and therefore the problem must fit the tool I have. Come prepared with the right tool and lens for the situation. Do not be tempted to look at every problem with the same solution.
Keep this in mind, Analogical Reasoning suggests the first idea that comes to our mind is often triggered by a familiar problem. The reasoning can often prevent a better solution from being found.
Give yourself the time to step back and consider if you have something new to offer based on a previous project, situation, experience, or lesson learned. This is where you might find yourself asking, “Do I only have a hammer, when I may need a drill?
If you need a new tool, ask for help. Nothing great is ever done alone. Lean on your team. Ask a mentor for help. Seek inspiration online. Find a way to use the right tool for every single situation – even if that means buying or renting a new tool!
Can you think of a time where you feel like introspection dramatically changed or improved a situation for you? What has self-awareness and introspection done for you lately?
If this topic is interesting, send me an email about how I can speak about introspection and self-awareness at your next event!
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