Enjoy this excerpt from our new book, Healthy Leadership.
We can only improve what we observe and are aware of. So, knowledge of yourself is the most important type of knowledge—and provides the most fertile ground for self-growth.
Knowing your own tendencies, preferences, natural gifts, and weaknesses helps you be more personally effective and, as a result, a more insightful and effective leader. You must know yourself to lead others in a healthy way.
Self-aware leaders intentionally work to minimize their blind spots—which are the behaviors, traits, or tendencies that others see but you are unaware of. Picture the friend who thinks he is a great listener, but everyone else wishes he would stop talking constantly.
Blind spots are so central to leadership performance that they have attracted scientific researchers. David Zes and Dana Landis analyzed 6,977 assessments of managers and executives to identify blind spots. They compared the assessment results to the financial data of the 486 publicly traded companies for which the subjects worked.
After tracking stock performance over 30 months, the researchers found that organizations with a higher percentage of self-aware leaders (fewest blind spots) had the strongest financial performance.
Meanwhile, companies with the least self-aware leaders (most blind spots) had the lowest financial performance. In other words, self-knowledge isn’t just good leadership. It’s good business.
Prevent blind spots and build self-awareness by asking your team what you can Start, Stop, and Keep doing to help them succeed . . . and carefully listen to their answers—with humility, not defensiveness. This process is simple on the mind, but it can be tough on the heart, not to mention on your pride.
It takes courage to ask for feedback and potentially uncover blind spots, but the cost of low self-awareness is your leadership credibility.
Healthy leaders also prevent blind spots by making concerted efforts to seek unfiltered truths about their organization, their challenges, their opportunities, and most importantly, about their leadership.
The higher you are in an organization, the more filtered the information you receive. It’s a natural and predictable phenomenon, but it’s also a precarious position to be in.
No leader wants to be “the emperor who wore no clothes,” so staying connected with frontline team members enables you to access unfiltered information about your leadership.
Healthy leaders listen and learn more than they talk and tell, they question assumptions more than they assert them, and they push beyond their comfort zone more than they seek comfort.
Also, armed with self-awareness, you can more clearly see your weaknesses so you can build a team with strengths that complement your weaknesses.