How is Self-awareness Important in Leadership?


self awareness in leadership

  1. What is self-awareness?
  2. Benefits of Self-awareness in Leadership
  3. What are the Characteristics of a Self-aware Leader?
  4. Top Tips for Building Self-awareness?
  5. How to Practice Self-awareness through Academic Study

What is self-awareness?

Simply put, self-awareness is the art of knowing oneself: assessing and evaluating actions, thoughts, and emotions while understanding how others perceive them. The importance of self-awareness in leadership arises from the fact that leaders need to be aware of how their behaviour impacts the people they lead. It contributes to their personal growth and enables them to use their strength to guide the team to success. In this article, we’ve talked in detail about the importance of self-awareness in leadership and how you can work to improve your self-awareness as a leader.

Benefits of Self-awareness in Leadership

Self-aware leaders know their talents, faults, and opportunities. And by admitting them in front of their subordinates, they let their vulnerability and confidence show in front of others and set a good example for the rest of the team. With this, leaders can encourage introspection and help their subordinates develop more self-awareness, which will lead to better performance. Developing self-awareness in leadership can be the first step toward increasing your Emotional Intelligence (the ability to comprehend emotions), further strengthening the bond within the team.

As I have mentioned above, being self-aware gives you a better idea of your natural tendencies, capabilities, shortcomings, etc. Hence, a self-aware leader can:

  • Utilize their strengths and minimize the impact of their weaknesses
  • Understand what they can bring to the table
  • Set realistic goals
  • Make better decisions and set priorities better
  • Set defined and healthy personal boundaries

What are the Characteristics of a Self-aware Leader?

Take a look below to get a better understanding of the characteristics of a self-aware leader:


A person with heightened emotional intelligence is likely to be empathetic towards their subordinates and know their working style, further leading to the formation of a closer-knit team.


Recognizing and accepting your strengths, shortcomings, and needs gives you a sense of confidence and also allows you to be vulnerable. 


For self-aware leaders, humility is a by-product of confidence. Once you know and accept your strengths and weaknesses, you will constantly keep working to improve those shortcomings and remain humble about your strengths.


When you’re aware of how you will react in a situation, you can work around the solutions by taking preventive measures, or maybe even by simply being patient. Self-awareness allows you to adapt to a situation and respond in a suitable manner.


As a self-aware leader, you will understand that just like yourself, your teammates also have emotions and are probably going through similar struggles. This understanding will give you a kinder outlook and allow you to foster a better work culture.


Almost all great leaders are known to have had immaculate communication skills. When you are aware of how others see and perceive your views, you can make your conversations easy to understand for everyone around you.

Top Tips for Building Self-awareness?

We’ve gone through the qualities of a self-aware leader. Now take a look at how we can instil or enhance self-awareness in our leadership.

Know Yourself

Developing a deeper understanding of your internal self is the most natural thing to do in order to elevate self-awareness in your leadership. You can achieve that level of understanding by being mindful of your strengths and weaknesses, setting internal standards for right and wrong, comprehending and accepting your emotions, etc.

Carry out self-assessment to understand where your leadership skills have benefitted the organization and where you have scope to better yourself. That being said, you also need to focus on the fact that leadership is seldom about sticking to one single thing and requires you to be dynamic in your thought process. So, keep looking for innovative ways to evaluate your leadership.

Trust your Intuition

Letting your instincts be in control of decisions is one of the best ways to become aware of yourself. Once you let go of inhibitions and make choices based on your intuition, you will realise what exactly goes on inside of you. Not to mention the fact that a large number of highly successful leaders value their intuition greatly.

Analyse how People React to your Behaviour and Gather Feedback

Another primary facet of self-awareness in leadership is that you must be aware of how your actions impact your subordinates. The best way to understand this is to analyse their reactions. When you are able to understand their reactions and the reasons behind them, you will realise what changes you need to make to yourself.

In addition to observing people’s reactions, taking feedback from trusted connections can also give you a broader perspective on your personality and how it impacts the people around you. Friends, family, and coworkers can be the best people to take feedback from.

Keep Reflecting

Self-aware people process and reflect on their situations before, during, and after every event. Assess how your personal characteristics affect others using your emotional intelligence and empathy. This continuous reflection will also enable the leader in you to utilise those strengths and make up for the weaknesses.

Let’s take the example of planning an upcoming meeting or conversation in advance. When you know what your natural reaction to a situation could be, you can also make out if that response would be appropriate. You could then adjust your response in order to be more effective. Adding such targeted self-reflection can add a great amount of self-awareness to your leadership.

How to Practice Self-awareness through Academic Study

You can become a self-aware leader by enrolling in a program as well. And mentioned below is how enrolling in a program can help one become a self-aware leader. 

  • Project-based Learning: Learning on the go through projects is one of the best ways to become more aware of the process. It gives you an opportunity of analysing your work and improve it to become more efficient.
  • Case Studies: Studying what others have done in different situations gives you an idea about the ways of handling problems. It also helps you understand yourself better by providing a comparison between you and others.  
  • Peer Interaction: Interacting with your peers and discussing ideas allows you to obtain wisdom from their experiences.
  • Mentorship by Industry Experts: The people who have made a mark for themselves in their respective industries have a deep understanding of leadership and can share valuable insights with you.

And if you are looking for a program that can check all the boxes and provide you with exposure to all these facets of developing self-awareness in leadership, then look no further than the Future Leaders Programme by the National University of Singapore. The programme curriculum is designed to transform leadership learning and create great business leaders.


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