From a leadership perspective, self-awareness continues to come up as one of the primary areas that leaders with great potential tend to fail.
As I mentioned in a previous post (What Environment am I Creating in My Home), I believe self-awareness is a much broader issue than just in our leadership. Over the past year or so, we have discussed this topic a few times in our weekly staff meetings at The Chapel, so some of the concepts noted in this post are ideas presented in that environment (courtesy of Jerry Gillis). In either case, I am going to write generally on the topic with the hope that you can apply aspects of it toward whatever areas of your life need the spotlight of truth to permeate.
Many people go through life with blind spots – some are more noticeable than others. These blind spots can range from things like selfishness and poor listening skills to compulsiveness, narcissism, paranoia, codependency and passive-aggressiveness. All of these things, though varying in complexity, are typically the result of a lack of self-awareness.
As a quick aside – A great book that focuses on some of these blind spots is “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership” by McIntosh & Rima. I’d encourage anyone in a leadership role to read this book.
Its probably safe to assume that most people wouldn’t be seeking these toxic, damaging behaviors.
For example, you probably didn’t wake up this morning hoping to be paranoid, right?
I’m sure as a child you probably wished daily to grow up to be codependent. Not likely!
So, what do we need to do to bring these and other things to light and, once identified, begin to take steps toward a better outcome?
In the last section of the book I mentioned earlier, the authors share how we can take steps to redeem our dark side. Quoting from the text: “God can use our dark side when we constantly are evaluating and understanding our weaknesses and continually seeking God’s protection and guidance”.
Why are some people better at being self-aware than others?
I think there are two major contributors – humility and discipline.
It takes humility to admit that we have weakness.
How many people have a glaring blind spot but they won’t even entertain a discussion because it would show weakness? Many leaders assume that the role they have requires that they show no weakness. Where is the humility and integrity in that?
Many parents don’t want to show weakness to their children for fear of not being a good example or, more simply, pride. How are our children supposed to learn from a false example?
It takes a high degree of discipline to constantly evaluate and understand these weaknesses. It also takes great discipline to regularly seek God’s wisdom in addressing them.
I believe the discipline of reflection is the missing piece.
Pardon the sports analogy, but coaches and athletes watch game film to not only see what others do but also how they responded.
Psalm 4:4 says “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”
King David is revealing a regular practice in his life – when he is in bed at night, he is searching his heart.
Do I have a process of reviewing my day – taking an inventory?
Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”…I would agree!
I need to ask enough questions of myself and know what to do with what I find. Its not enough to admit to weaknesses if I will not do anything about it. So, we are not just referring to a self pep talk – do I ask questions of self examination?
In trying to put this into practice in my own life, I am attempting to use the following words to prompt the right behavior as I review my day.
Recall, Reflect, Reinforce
Recall – I take time to think back upon my day and see where I may have responded the right or wrong way, made good or bad decisions, used my time and resources wisely or foolishly, etc.
Reflect – I take a moment and seek God’s wisdom in how He would have wanted me to respond differently; unselfishly.
Reinforce – I look for opportunities in the next day to reinforce the right response and/or make right any wrongs.
Another important source of feedback in the area of self-awareness is the counsel of trusted others in our lives. The issue with self-awareness is that we are unable to see ourselves clearly – at angles we don’t normally see. We need the right people in our lives that can speak honestly when needed (even when it is uncomfortable).
Who are those people in your life? Do you seek their input and feedback?
Lastly, let’s not forget why it is important to be self-aware…
If identified blind spots or issues are left alone, they will have explosive consequences – typically hurting those we care about the most. But, if you identify the problem, take it to a safe place and deal with it, the damage is decreased or mitigated completely.
How self-aware are you? More importantly, how do you know?