If you’ve recently been promoted or somehow flagged as a leader, you might be feeling pretty good about yourself, as if you know it all. But the quality that really helps successful leaders be effective is awareness —and until you develop your capacity for awareness, none of your knowledge will do you much good.
When you’re in a leadership position, sometimes those around you will shield you from reality. They may not want to tell you about a problem because they are afraid of being blamed. They won’t tell you something isn’t working because they feel intimidated about second-guessing you. They may protect you from unpleasant truths out of misplaced loyalty or because they don’t want to deal with your response. Instead of telling you what you need to know, they may complain behind your back, remain quiet rather than disagree with you, or maybe just leave altogether to avoid confrontation.
You may be sailing through your day thinking everything is fine, but if the things you need to know aren’t getting to you, you have a problem. Here are seven questions based on the traits of highly aware leaders—use them to assess and build your own capability for awareness.
Do you lead with questions? Are the kind of leader who is inquisitive? Do you ask a lot of questions, or are you assuming you know it all? Leaders who pride themselves on being aware are consistently asking questions.
Are you open to constructive feedback? For some, feedback always feels like criticism, but constructive feedback is actually a great gift. When you can be open to feedback you become more aware, a better leader and a better person.
Do you create a safe environment? If you want to hear constructive feedback, you must create a safe culture, a safe environment where people can speak their mind and heart. If people don’t feel safe speaking out, you end up with a culture where people either complain behind your back or walk away, so they don’t have to deal with you. Either way, an unsafe environment leads to a toxic culture. Even if your culture normalizes this climate, that doesn’t make it right.
Are you open to learning new things? The best leaders understand how much they don’t know, and they treat learning as a big part of leadership. They never stop discovering, learning and wondering about new ways of doing things.
Do you assume everyone agrees with you? Aware leaders remain open to disagreements and conflict. They expect others to speak up and state their mind, and they model the idea that differences are meant not to divide but to enrich.
Are you too distracted to be informed? I have seen many leaders who simply have too much going on—whose enormous responsibilities leave them too distracted to know what they’re doing and how they’re being perceived. But an anxious and distressed leader makes for an uneasy and agitated team. Don’t allow distractions to keep you from being informed.
Are you surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you? Some leaders will think they have to be the smartest person in the room, so they surround themselves with mediocrity. But mediocrity will never yield excellence. The best and smartest leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter and who can disagree with them, and they learn from those people.
Aware leaders have the capacity to stand apart from themselves and examine their thinking and actions. In turn, they receive the insight to lead not only themselves but also others to greatness.
Lead from within: Awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. It is the difference between limiting yourself and evaluating yourself—not only as a leader but as a person.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is being released by Portfolio May 2017.