Fundamental Leadership Principles From A to Z: Self-Awareness
What role does self-awareness play in today’s competitive business world? Some may see emotional intelligence (EI or EQ for short) as a self-help fad. It isn’t. EQ is a crucial part of modern fundamental leadership principles. These days, very few students learn the art of leadership. It is a subject not taught at the grade school, high school, or sometimes college level. Great leaders realize the importance of self-awareness. How can someone lead others when he or she is not cognizant of his or her own personality, thoughts and actions? The short answer is they can’t.
Historical Foundations of Self-Awareness
René Descartes inspired future thinkers to engage in introspection (cogito ergo sum statement). English contemporary John Locke furthered the principle of “I think, therefore I am” with his own work.
Later philosophers such as Nietzsche and Bertrand Russell would expand on this concept. They examined self-awareness through the lens of ethics and religion.
Modern research into self-awareness transitioned from the philosophical realm to the psychological realm. In the 1990’s, psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman wrote about emotional intelligence. He posited that researchers could measure this soft skill in a manner like IQ. More recently, Dr. Travis Bradberry showed a connection between EQ and earned income.
Self-Awareness and Leadership
There are various aspects of self-awareness that are intrinsic to effective leadership. Rational introspection helps a leader to assess his or her strengths and weaknesses. This makes it easier to delegate tasks. In business settings, self-awareness also opens the door to empathy. Empathetic leadership is an essential factor in personnel management. Emotional intelligence also enables individuals to focus on primary objectives. Effective leaders are ones who keep sight of ultimate goals without becoming distracted.
Learning is the key to developing emotional intelligence and other fundamental leadership principles. There is no better time than the present to cultivate self-awareness. Online courses, books, podcasts, and video presentation proliferate. The budding leader need only take the initiative to seek out these resources. Other practical methods exist to improve this important aspect of leadership. Some leaders cultivate self-awareness during times of meditation and journal writing. Some work with mentors or coaches on a one-on-one basis for better results.
Why Self-Awareness is Crucial to Leadership
Self-awareness is a fundamental leadership principle. It reverberates through our society because poor leadership is everywhere we look. The onus is on us to fix this problem. But we can’t do that if we don’t have a foundational understanding of ourselves. We must take the advice of Descartes: