When East meets West…why awareness is crucial to leadership

by Judith F Kennedy, PhD

Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu
In my 20 years of working with top executives and other high performers, I know that IQ is not the reason that most leaders fail in their objectives. Rather it is lack of EQ, Emotional Intelligence. Most leadership experts acknowledge that leaders who are low in Emotional Intelligence often don’t succeed.  In fact, current research suggests that great leadership performance is directly proportional to your level of Emotional Intelligence, of which Self Awareness is perhaps the most important ingredient

So what is Self Awareness?

It is simply ‘knowing who you are’ and understanding why you think, feel and behave the way you do.

Why is it so important? Because without it you are doomed to repeat the same old mistakes you made last week/month/year.  Without it you can never get out of your own way and breakthrough the internal barriers to your own growth.

The three most skillful ways to increase your self awareness are to 1) learn to be “mindful”. This is a special type of awareness practice which teaches you to recognize not what your are thinking but how your mind works. It teaches you to understand when you are caught in destructive patterns of thought and to be less attached to this thinking. Meditation practices are the best tool to develop mindfulness.  2) To give yourself a powerful, compassionate, wise no excuses type coach/mentor. 3) To surround yourself with a group of peers who will give you honest feedback.

By harnessing the power of self-awareness you will be able to:

Make better decisions – from a place of greater objectivity.   Reduce your level of stress.  Be able to communicate and collaborate better with the people you work with – clients, boss, peers, suppliers, staff.  Communicate more effectively in general – tailoring your message to the deeply held concerns of your listener. Increase your prospects for career advancement – by increasing your level of emotional intelligence

Self-awareness requires honesty and courage. It is not easy to get in touch with what we are thinking and feeling and to face the truth about ourselves.  Exploring our inner core is not for the faint hearted. The benefit however, is true freedom and peace of mind.

Self-management and empathy are prerequisites for being able to handle and inspire emotions in other people. Without this leaders will struggle to establish sustainable, authentic relationships.