Leadership and Self-Awareness

Daniel Goleman, an authority on emotional intelligence in the workplace, notes that “no matter what leaders set out to do—whether it’s creating a strategy or mobilizing teams to action—their success depends on how they do it. Even if they get everything else just right, if leaders fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.”

Inspired by Goleman’s work, recent research by TalentSmart found that on average, EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) predicts 60% of the variance in job performance across all jobs and industries. Additionally, 90% of high performers were high in EQ. Fortunately, it is a learnable set of skills that remains malleable well into adulthood, unlike “IQ” which is established in early childhood. 
So what is EQ and how do we get more of it? In the table below, note the two dimensions of intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships with insights and behavior in each. The four combinations reveal four core EQ skills that comprise one’s overall emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. 
Each area can be emphasized and expanded individually or in conjunction with one another through deliberate professional development. The four skills combine to define emotional intelligence as your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others. 
“Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, 
but it is worth the effort” – Fred Rogers
If you want to grow in emotional intelligence, self-awareness is a great place to start because it is harder to manage (in ourselves and among others) that of which we are not aware. There is also a level of ownership for our environment when we choose to delve into self-awareness. It forces us to look inward first and embrace responsibility rather than casting blame on others. Closer examination of self-awareness, reveals two types: 
  •     Internal – how well do I know myself, what makes me tick, what do I stand for
  •     External – how do others see me, what is it like to be on the receiving side of my behavior 
The two realms share a commonality in that expanding in each area stems from asking better questions.  Many of us sabotage ourselves by asking limiting, self-defeating questions such as “Why do I always screw that up?” Or “Why can’t I get that right?” Or “Why do they always trigger me?” Contrast the types of answers that might arise with a “WHY” question with those that stem from a “WHAT” question instead. “What might I change to do that better?” Or “What am I missing that I need to see?” The quality of our answers is on par with the quality of the questions we ask. Pause for a moment and consider the self talk and questions that are driving your actions. 
External self-awareness can be enhanced with feedback, but we tend to get it wrong by asking unhelpful, yet well-intended questions like “Do you have any feedback for me?” Or we don’t seek feedback at all, or we seek it out from as many as we can despite the relevance and quality of the feedback. 
When soliciting feedback about how others see and experience you, consider finding a select few individuals who have your best interest in mind, will tell you truthfully what they think, who are in a position to observe you regularly and who benefit from the impact of your growth in this area. Then, be specific in what you ask for regarding feedback. Better questions yield better answers.     
  1. Conduct an EQ Self Assessment – there are many and here is one by TalentSmart, the organization credited above for its research on this topic. 
  2. Go deeper on the activities noted above for growing internal and external self-awareness, by listening to this “Coaching for Leaders” podcast episode or watching this TED Talk on becoming more Self-Aware, both featuring the same author Tasha Eurich. 
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. 
Today I am wise,  so I am changing myself.”   – Rumi

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