Emily Marsh June 13 2018

Self-awareness: the key to leadership development

Self-awareness is a vital building block of leadership development. A leader that knows their strengths can play to them, and a leader that knows their potential pitfalls can learn to adapt their behaviour to boost performance. Personality profiling provides a platform for increasing self-awareness.

All successful organisations need great leaders. But 86% of business leaders say that leadership is their biggest organisational challenge, according to research by Deloitte.

Developing great leaders has always been a crucial issue for organisations. However, in today’s business environment, the issue is even more acute.

Technology advancements, the political climate and changes in the social demographics of the workforce are piling even more pressure on organisations to find leaders that can navigate a business through this complex web of change.

But with the right guidance and encouragement, anyone can become a great leader. The most successful organisations recognise this and focus on developing leaders at all levels of the organisation.

Yet, transitioning into leadership is not easy. Mid-level and senior roles can be demanding, requiring capability in both strategic leadership as well as managing the ‘day-to-day’, maximising the capacity of people and resources.

So how can we help those transitioning into leadership roles navigate these challenges and be the best they can be?

Know Yourself

A successful leadership journey starts with a well-used paradigm: Know Yourself.

This critical building block of leadership development is all about self-awareness. Self-aware leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. And if you know your strengths, you can play to them and lead with more confidence. If you know your weaknesses, you can identify areas you need to work on to become more effective.

For example, being a leader means having to make tough decisions, often in ambiguous circumstances, but your natural response may be to avoid conflict and confrontation. Likewise, successful leadership also means being open to adapt and change, but this may not be inherent in your personality.

It’s useful to know these things so that you can learn to adapt your behaviour when the situation requires it.

Part of being self-aware is also understanding how your behaviour influences those around you. And the ability to flex your leadership style to more readily engender respect and build trust with those you work with is an irreplaceable pillar of effective leadership.

It’s not uncommon for people transitioning into leadership roles to feel unsure of themselves, especially as they may be facing intense scrutiny, which makes the need to navigate their way skilfully even more potent. For this reason, it’s important that they take the time to pause, reflect and begin to develop greater self-awareness.

So how can we help new leaders become more self-aware?

Personality Profiling

Personality profiling can provide a great tool for raising an individual’s self-awareness, by offering a platform to explore their core personality, preferences, strengths and potential weaknesses.

There are many different personality profiling tools available for organisations to use, including MBTI, Hogan and Facet5.

Usually, these are administered as questionnaires for the individual to fill out. The principle behind personality questionnaires is that your enduring personality traits can be captured by asking you about your feelings, thoughts and behaviours in certain situations.

Each personality profiling tool measures personality in slightly different ways. For example, Facet5 measures;

  • Will - the driving force behind the promotion and defence of your own ideas
  • Energy - the extent to which you need to interact with other people
  • Affection - the degree to which you are 'self' or 'others' focused
  • Control - the amount of self-discipline and responsibility you have
  • Emotionality - the level of tension and apprehension you experience in your everyday life

These factors of personality are generally considered by psychologists to be the five fundamental 'building blocks' of a person. 

Practitioners of personality assessments will be formally trained in how to talk leaders through their profiles. When a person completes a personality assessment, they are divulging personal information, and this warrants acknowledgement, respect and a return. The purpose of feedback is to leave the individual with an understanding of what they are naturally good at and should leverage, and behaviours that they need to watch for or manage.

Personality profiling isn’t the only key to self-awareness, but it's a great place to start. By providing leaders with tools to help them understand their natural leadership style, strengths and weaknesses, we can empower them to be the best they can be.

360-degree feedback is another way leaders can get to know themselves better, and this often complements personality profiling. This is a process through which feedback from those who work closely with the leader - those they lead, their peers and their own managers - is gathered. Being aware of how others may perceive them provides leaders with another boost to enhance their performance.

Beyond the Personality Test

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