Tag: Self-awareness

Why leaders need to practice humility to develop self-awareness


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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Leadership, self-awareness and the US Naval Academy

Self-awareness, few would argue its importance in leadership. It is no surprise then that the US Naval Academy describes self-awareness as a top leadership principle.

I’ve always had the greatest respect and admiration for our US servicemen. The sacrifice and courage displayed by all who served represents leadership at its best.

My father, Peter C MacIsaac pictured below, is a veteran and US Naval Academy graduate.


Upon my MBA graduation, my father gave me a copy of Reef Points. Reef points is the handbook of the Brigade of the of Midshipmen. One section within the Reef Points booklet is on Leadership Principles. This section is right after the section on Leadership Traits. The principles described are shared by all the US military, not just the Navy.

Below is an excerpt from Reef Points on self-awareness and self-improvement. It is the first section under Leadership Principles. It is short, elegant, and powerful. It is a model for all who aspire to develop leadership.

Know yourself and seek self improvement

Use the leadership traits to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. An accurate and clear understanding of yourself and a comprehension of group behavior will help you determine the best way to deal with any given situation.

Make an honest evaluation of yourself to determine your strong and weak personal qualities.

  • Seek the honest opinion of your friends or superiors
  • Learn by studying the causes for the success and failures of others
  • Develop a genuine interest in people
  • Master the art of effective writing and speech
  • Have a definite plan to achieve your goals


2015, REEF POINTS (110th edition), Annapolis, MD: U.S Naval Institute

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