The Most Challenging Leadership Skill of All

There are a lot of skills that make up good leadership, but there is one quality that is possibly the most challenging, that is self-awareness, because self-awareness requires you to focus on yourself—not the easiest thing to do for an outwardly focused leader.

Why is self-awareness even important to leaders? Because when you understand your own motivations, you’re able to better understand the motivations of others. When you understand your own shortcomings and the struggle to overcome them, you can better coach others. When you can manage your own emotions, you can better control the emotional climate of your organization.

Self-awareness makes you a more effective leader in numerous important ways. Here are just a few:

You can relate to others. When you are self-aware, you understand how you instinctively think, and you’re able to relate to others. Your communication is deeper and your relationships are more meaningful. People gravitate toward leaders who can relate to them and their struggles.

You can focus on others. A big part of successful leadership involves taking the spotlight off yourself and shining it on others. When you have self-awareness, you’re conscious of how your words and actions influence others. You weigh your words carefully and think about their effect, and you don’t alienate yourself from those around you by taking out your stress, anger, or frustrations on them. You tend to stay positive even in tough situations.

You can empathize with others. Empathy is the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly and the fuel that keeps leadership going—it’s an ability that’s well worth cultivating. Empathy may feel like a soft, sometimes abstract tool, but it leads to hard tangible results. It allows us to create bonds of trust and gives us insight into what others are feeling or thinking. It sharpens our acumen about people and it informs our decisions. Empathy is more than just sympathizing—it means using your own knowledge of how something feels to improve relationships, situations and circumstances.

You can receive feedback from others. Feedback is important for developing self-awareness—it’s often the only way you can find out how others perceive you. We all need people who will give us feedback; that’s how we improve, one of the most tried and true forms of leadership. Without it, you’ll find yourself operating in a bubble and not really knowing how well others are doing—or, for that matter, yourself.

You can coach others. When you’re the kind of leader who understands yourself and what drives you, your team will respect you when you coach them about drive and motivation. This aspect of leadership is so important that the best thing you can do to prepare for coaching is to get a coach yourself. Coaching is great for developing your own self-awareness and helping others develop theirs in turn.

You can lead others. Once you become aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, you have the power to use your strengths intentionally and to manage or leverage your weaknesses. When you can admit what you don’t know and you have the humility to ask for help when you need it, you increase your credibility. Leadership isn’t about being perfect; it’s about admitting what you don’t know and seeking help from others so you can lead each other to success.

As leaders, we’re inclined to focus on others rather than ourselves. But turning your focus inward is beneficial in numerous ways. By developing self-awareness, you get to know what does and doesn’t work for you, and you learn how to manage your impact on others. Leaders with high levels of self-awareness have a deeper understanding of human nature and are more effective as leaders, because they deal with people positively and inspire trust and credibility.

Lead from within: Self-awareness is one of the most important qualities you can have as a leader, and developing self-awareness is important in both your personal and professional life.

N A T I O N A L    B E S T S E L L E R


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.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

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,, 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 has become a national bestseller.

  1. Allen D DeNormandie

    12. Apr, 2018

    Some of the basic concepts of EI that ultimately leads to many metanoia moments! In this age of disruption, many cling to the hope of returning to the activity of yesterday, not realizing that they are in fact, throwing away tomorrow!

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  2. Hamid

    04. May, 2018

    great writing Madam

    Reply to this comment
  3. rfloresclar

    10. Jun, 2018

    Thank you, Lolly for this post and your valuable insights! I didn’t know someone like you existed until I came across some of your writing a couple of years ago, and I thought: “This is exactly the type of leadership that I always believed in, but I never thought anyone would write about!” Leading from within has been something that I’ve believed in for years, and that I’ve practiced to the best of my abilities. I almost feel that I am your male version, but not quite as developed as you are!
    You are a gift to the leadership world, and for that matter to all organizations that are blessed with being exposed to and embrace your insights.
    I can appreciate your post about self-awareness. It is a fundamental piece for us a leaders and for us as human beings. It reminds me of the concept of “mindfulness” that is talked about so much also nowadays, and it meaning “knowing what’s happening inside of us and around us.” This may also be your definition, for all I know. When we’re fully aware of what happens inside of us and around us, we have greater clarity to allow our true essence to come out and be of service to others.
    I hope I have the privilege of meeting you some day.
    Thank you again and my best wishes on all you do!

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