The privileges of leadership are hard-won – you need to be able to understand and guide yourself before you can consider leading someone else. Studies have shown that knowing yourself inside out can help you to decide better, communicate better, and even form and build relationships better. Introspection can be a powerful tool which can be used for both self-improvement and the betterment of others. If you find yourself in a position of leadership, how often do you ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I self-aware?
Self-awareness comes in two variations – internal and external. The former is concerned with how we see ourselves impacting someone else, whereas the latter is about understanding how others view you. A healthy mix of both is required to attain a holistic sense of self-awareness such that you are able to empathise with fellow colleagues and see things from their perspective.
2. Is my power affecting my self-awareness?
In essence, ask yourself if you are truly as good as you think. A study showed that higher level leaders tend to overestimate their skills a lot more than lower level leaders. This occurred in various aspects ranging from self-assessments of empathy, to emotional self-awareness and trustworthiness. This may be due to the lack of candid feedback accessible, since top tier leaders only have a few people above them. With lower level management being unlikely to challenge their decisions, such leaders are unlikely to receive much feedback.
3. Do people think I’m overconfident?
While being experience and confidence are undeniably desirable, one should not appear overconfident to fellow colleagues. In fact, research concluded that managers with more experience actually failed to assess their leadership capabilities as accurately as the less experienced counterparts. As such, on top of reflecting on how you portray your confidence, leaders should be humble and continuously strive to improve themselves.
4. Am I reflecting correctly?
Introspection is just like any tool you’d find in a toolbox – it only works if used properly. A common trap people tend to fall into while analysing their shortcomings is to rationalise them as they do so. This can lead to one being less self-aware as you end up dealing with delusions. The human brain is a marvelous design and is capable of generating any sort of thought process as a means of protecting itself, even from criticism. To combat this, stay objective by asking “what” instead of “why”. This also prevents you from dwelling on past mistakes, allowing you to push forward.
5. Have I helped others succeed?
It is easy to lose sight and forget about your team mates when Key Performance Indexes (KPI), growth percentages, and sales targets are always in the conversation. This is especially so when you are working in a large corporation with many employees. Helping other colleagues succeed and excel not only presents you in a positive light, but also positions you as a reliable source of inspiration. Leaders are individuals to whom people can rally to in times of crisis. If you’re constantly looking out for yourself without caring for others, that layer of selfishness will become very apparent and cause others to lose confidence in your ability to lead them.
Being able to lead is both an honour and a burden. Being able to shoulder both is most definitely an uphill task and even so, not everyone might appreciate you for it. Nevertheless, never neglect your fellow colleagues and subordinates, and uphold your mandate to be responsible and diligent. Real leaders are made by their own efforts, not fancy titles.