The Best Version of YOU

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the important role that humility plays in good leadership. Humility is foundational to becoming a leader that others willingly follow largely because it’s a key element in one’s ability to be self-aware.

But, is self-awareness a requirement for good leadership? I think so.

A couple of years ago, an article about how to be a better leader published in MIT Sloan Management Review named self-awareness as the most important capability leaders can have because great leaders have an accurate understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses and are therefore able to both contribute to their team in meaningful ways and look to others to fill in the gaps.

A study published in 2013 found that self-awareness has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. Looking at the stock performance of 486 publicly traded companies, researchers found that companies with strong financial performance tended to also have employees with high levels of self-awareness.

Knowing Thyself

YOU are the one constant in your own life. I know. Way to state the obvious, right? But, when you think about it, the fact that YOU are the consistent element in every event of your life is why understanding yourself is so important to your own success.

As psychologist and author Daniel Goleman said, “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Self-awareness floods you with knowledge that enables you to make better decisions, change when necessary, and grow as a leader. Here are 4 ideas for how we can increase our ability to be more self-aware:

1. Identify External Triggers

Pay attention to both negative and positive indicators that prompt others’ behavior toward you. In other words, how do you trigger the behavior of others and how does that behavior affect you?

As often as possible, try to understand why you do the things you do and how the people around you are responding to your actions. Take it further by looking honestly at how the patterns of behavior -> response -> behavior between yourself and those you work with are impacting the culture, perspectives, and goals.

2. Gather Trusted Feedback

When accepted with openness and grace, feedback leads to empathy, and empathy helps us acquire an honest understanding of how our actions impact others. Consistently requesting feedback from those we trust can help us become more aware of how we are getting in our own way by identifying blind spots in the ways we act, react, and think.

3. Consider the Circumstances of YOU

There are times when certain personality traits come in handy, and times when those same aspects of ourselves needs to hang out in the back seat for a while. According to the MIT study mentioned earlier, most self-aware CEOs learned to identify their “outlier tendencies” and adjusted their behavior to change the way they were perceived.

In other words, instead of trying to change who they are, they learned how to use their own personality skillfully.

4. Consider Behavior in the Context of Your Values and Priorities

All of us should be able to notice patterns in our behavior fairly easily. The key to evaluating the effectiveness or destructiveness of these patterns is to examine them under the spotlight of what’s most important to you, what motivates you, and the person you desire to be.

Behavioral patterns that support your values and priorities are not only worth hanging on to, but in some situations, worth emphasizing. On the flip side, behavioral patterns that go against your values and priorities are worthy of the energy it takes to stop them in their tracks. After all, the overarching goal of self-awareness is to understand how to be your best self.

Finally, stay curious.

Curiosity is a means of expanding knowledge, building relationships, forming partnerships, and gaining a deeper understanding of our industry and the people we serve. It’s also a requirement for self-awareness. We all have unique inclinations, stemming from our culture, background, and experiences. But, ultimately, understanding who we are and consciously directing who we will become is our responsibility alone. Stay curious.

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.

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