Know thyself is an ancient Greek aphorism used by philosophers including Plato and Socrates. Ben Franklin stated: “There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one’s self”.
Self-Awareness is often referred to as the most important trait in leadership. Bill George, author of Finding your True North, writes that leadership skills start with self-awareness.
So what does it mean to have self-awareness? Webster defines self-awareness as knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character. Daniel Goleman writes: “Self-awareness means having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drives. People with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are honest-with themselves and with others” (Golmean, 1996).
I discovered that to develop self-awareness, you’ll need to practice humility. I once did a 360 peer review and was shocked when I saw the results. Everyone said I was poor at exactly the thing I thought was my strength! How could this be? It was a great learning experience but my ego took a hit. So get ready to be humble when you’re working on developing self-awareness.
The good news is that getting to know yourself is not all about learning your weaknesses. When we start to become self-aware, we also start to discover our strengths. As leaders, when we begin to discover our strengths, then we begin to make a difference.
The practice of getting to know one’s self is a challenging and ongoing action. My recommendation for developing self-awareness is to get feedback from others through peer reviews. Sometimes it helps to do anonymous feedback reviews, so people don’t hold back. If you’re married, your spouse is a great resource to help you develop self-awareness. Write down what you believe is your strengths and weaknesses, then run it by your spouse. Their response my surprise you.
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