“Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control, These three alone lead life to sovereign power.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
For those of us who lead, traits like self-awareness and self-control should be a natural part of our emotional intelligence. But we might not know ourselves as well as we think we do.
Imagine someone in a coaching session. Asked to describe himself, he gives a list of positive traits: hard-working, caring for others, sensitive, with a passion for order, excellence, and doing great work.
Now he’s asked a new question: What do you think your co-workers would say about you? About the same, he replies.
He’s stunned to learn that some of his peers and colleagues have issues with his actions.
What he sees as working hard, others see as him believing that no one is good enough to delegate to, and that he has to do it all himself.
What he sees as caring for others, others see as a disrespectful inattention to boundaries, not asking enough questions before telling people what they need to do.
What he considers sensitivity comes across to others as emotional distance.
Sometimes we have a huge blind spot when it comes to ourselves.
And this blindness to our own character leads us to imperfect choices and conclusions.
In this case, intense questioning about beliefs and triggers opened up the belief that, on a deep subconscious level, this leader didn’t feel worthy of his position.
So even though on the conscious level he believed he was acting positively, his subconscious anger and insecurity were leading him in ways that kept him from engaging with his team. His unconscious mind was driving all his actions, and everyone could see it except him.
Sometimes we have to rethink what we think we know about ourselves, acknowledge the possibility that we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.
Most of us we think we are okay, even when our encounters and relationships give us evidence to the contrary. Our conscious mind selects, evaluates, and interprets information that confirms what we wish to believe.
To really know ourselves, we have to see ourselves through the eyes of others.
We have to be willing to open up the things that we successfully hide from ourselves, and overcome the resistance to dig deep into our inner life.
Just as we lead others with heart, we have to observe ourselves and the reactions that others have to us not with with heart:
- Listen to the feedback you get from others.
- Ask yourself courageous questions.
- Observe the ways your conscious mind sabotages your own self-awareness.
- And, most importantly, don’t assume that you are immune from the influence of inner demons.
Lead From Within: As heart-based leaders we must bring our unconscious stories to our conscious narrative if we are to avoid being a stranger to ourselves.