Over the years, we have observed the evolution of several different theories of leadership and management, and the ‘upgrade’ of the skills required to be an inspiring and authentic leader.

One of the areas of development, that became very vital, is self-awareness, and without a doubt it got a good ‘boost’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe not right from the beginning of the pandemic, but later on, we realised that connecting with our experiences and making sense of them can be a valuable journey.

Unsurprisingly, self-awareness has become a common topic in coaching and training sessions with clients from Malta and overseas.

What is self-awareness?  

“Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards. If you’re highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behaviour with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you.” (Shelly Duval, Robert A. Wicklund, 1972)

In simple words, this is the skill that enables you to stop and take a stock of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and experiences, and then consciously take actions for improvement or correction.

Benefits of self-awareness practices

Leaders who apply self-awareness are able gauge their development, evaluate their progress and make changes if necessary. 

Leaders with good self-awareness usually know how to avoid their blind spots, express empathy when needed and dial in their strengths in times of adversity.  

Such leaders lead with empathy and compassion, support individuals to grow and are aware of their impact on others or the business. They can see things from the perspective of others and be better communicators.

Not everyone is born with good self-awareness, but there are many examples of leaders who have worked strategically to develop this skill and use it in their everyday professional and private lives.

4 tips to grow self-awareness

  1. Ask for feedback – Getting feedback from colleagues, family and friends will give you a different type of data. They all see you in a variety of life and professional roles and this will help you to look at a number of areas for development. Having an informal 360-degree feedback can be a scary and vulnerable exercise, but hey, it is worth it, and if you want to be better there is no other place to start from. Alternatively, you can use any formal or informal feedback from work and this will be helpful as well.

  2. Know your strengths and deficits – How often do we think about our core strengths? And what about our deficits? Putting then on paper will help us to visualise what we have in our bag and what we need to work on. One cannot be strong at everything and some strengths will be of use in different times of our life, but the core one will remain more or less constant. After a similar exercise I did with a client, he realised that one of his deficits is empathy. He started working on this, and the result was a slight change in his empathy levels, but a great shift in his awareness that although this might not be as important for him, it is important for other people in his life and work, and he learned how to notice this and engage better at that level.

  3. Keep a journal – Journaling is proven to have a number of benefits, and improving self-awareness is one of them. Keeping a simple journal will free your mind and give you an idea if there are any common patterns in the ways you respond in some situations, what is triggering this response and how you react and feel after. This will need discipline and the key is consistency. It is better to keep journaling simple, objective and non-judgmental. You can use a set of standard probing questions to answer every day and add some other observations as you go along. The standard probing questions will help you to keep the focus on your leadership development.

    These are just few ideas for probing questions, but you can add others that are more relevant to your situation:

    – What went well today/yesterday?
    – If I can go back to yesterday (or a particular situation), what would I do differently?
    – What did I learn today?
    – What am I proud of?
    – What am I thankful for?

  4. Plan reflection time – Reflection time will make this journey more productive and enriching. Reflection time is more complex and requires going back to all the above-mentioned steps and seeing what worked well, what feedback you got and what your areas for improvement are. After that, analyse the outcomes, plan realistic and tangible goals or just steps in the direction you want to progress, and start working on them.

Hint – start small, don’t rush and expect big improvements overnight!

Having an accountable buddy, peer supervision or more experienced mentor to bounce back ideas, observations, get advice or just celebrate success will be a of a great help and will give you the feeling that you are not alone on this journey!

Dragan is an accredited Coach Practitioner with the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC) and can be reached at [email protected] or by visiting www.carobconsult.com.


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