The Self-Aware Exec


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There’s a plethora of skills required of executives to run a solid business in today’s economic environment. Of all those skills needed, self-awareness ranks at the top of the list. Leaders who have a strong grasp of their own personality, emotions, strengths and weaknesses can more effectively engage with their clients, customers and most importantly, their employees. Executives need to know where their natural tendencies lie in order to manage and grow them effectively. Self-awareness is about identifying personal modes of behavior or peculiar thoughts. These could be the characteristics that executives take to be the norm, but actually represent the exception.

So, here’s how elite executives can develop and benefit from increasing their self-awareness. Let’s take a look.

Come On! Just Admit It!

Difficult moments are often part of the Executive Leadership experience, including acknowledging when major mistakes have been made, and taking appropriate steps to avoid those mistakes in the future. Accountability is a crucial part of leadership, but it helps develop self-awareness. When individuals are self-aware enough to recognize their mistakes, people tend to be pretty forgiving. The first step towards self-awareness is to be open about the things that cause stress, anxiety, and negativity in life. It’s possible, often not easy, to accept that sometimes you’re just plain wrong. One of the most admirable and useful traits for entrepreneurs and executives is the ability to admit your mistakes and move forward. This is NOT a sign of weakness to the team. It’s an indicator of a leader’s strength and it builds a culture of transparency and authentic communication. Too many CEOs tend to take the opposite approach. They lead with an “I’m always right” mentality undermining the team ability to challenge the status quo, or speak up when they see opportunities for growth. Admitting these shortcomings and mistakes is paramount in creating a dynamic and healthy executive leadership culture.

Curiosity Didn’t Kill The Kat

There are a variety of ways in which curiosity can benefit CEOs and other top executives, including continuing to learn and grow as a leader and developing innovative concepts. Open-minded leaders can boost their self-awareness by learning more about the people within the business. To be a successful leader, you have to be curious about new people and all they have to offer. This shows that you can be a team player, and don’t need to be No. 1. The curiosity isn’t in the manner of distrust but in genuine connectivity to empower the members to open up their latent potential and influence the organization in a way that stimulates growth. The more open you are to others, the more creative you, and they become.

Risky Business

Here’s a strategic benefit that can result from self-awareness. Risk comes with the territory for executives. Self-aware leaders may have an advantage in dealing with high-pressure scenarios. Accomplished leaders understand that self-awareness brings a sense of certainty and clarity in tough decision-making situations. We’ve all worked with those leaders who are insecure and don’t admit it, or know it. The lack of self-awareness can shy them away from a great situation or attract them to the wrong one. Either way opportunities are not maximized due to a lack of awareness.

It’s only natural for employees to watch, judge, and even mirror a leaders’ emotions at work. How will they react to a significant achievements or a huge mistakes? How will they show appreciation for good work or offer feedback on improvements?

Successful entrepreneurs and executive leaders do not let fear or anger take over and control their decision-making capabilities. They are sharp about knowing when to use their emotions to push for power and attainment, and when to pull back and use self-control to get what they want. Fear and anger make it difficult to reach mastery as these emotions disconnect people from rational thought. Self-control is a necessary ingredient for driving success and grooming ones emotional intelligence is an ongoing affair.

You Can Handle The Truth

Leaders who are on the path to self-awareness will have to reach out to others in the organization to help them assess how they are doing and how they are perceived. While this may include some initially awkward moments, getting real feedback can have positive results. This means allowing members of the team to authentically explain their perspective without argument or defense. It’s their perspective and that’s their reality. Self-aware leaders understand how to listen without emotional defense mechanisms drowning out the truth of that engagement.

The results, this self-awareness enables them to make faster and more efficient assessments in tough moments. Their self-knowledge clears space so they can cut through the confusion, or insecurity making their commitment to decisions more fluid. Successful executive leaders use observation and learning to become experts at knowing patterns of business and behavior, enabling them to take more risk and mitigate potential loss.

The Great Void

On the flip side, a lack of self-awareness can leave executives in the dark about their impact on the business and the people who make it run. An open mind is required, as is acknowledging that there is always room for self-improvement in leadership.

So, what happens when self-awareness is missing?:

Leaders don’t know their blind spots.
Leaders don’t know when and how their emotion states are distorting or limiting their thinking.
Leaders don’t know what they know and what they don’t know, so they can’t count on themself to seek necessary additional information.
Leaders can’t judge the effectiveness of their communications.
Leaders can’t develop as a leader because they don’t know what direction to go in.

Stepping Into What’s Next:

For executives looking to move forward in developing self-awareness, there are numerous ways to start.

Meditate Regularly:

Meditation is perhaps the most crucial instrument to harness the power of thought, cultivate more peace, clarity and happiness. Learning to train the brain and focus our attention is crucial to thriving and cultivating a peak performance in any endeavor. There are five major categories of brain waves, each corresponding to different activities. Meditation enables us to move from higher frequency brain waves to lower frequency, which activates different centers in the brain. Slower wavelengths = more time between thoughts = more opportunity to skillfully choose which thoughts you invest in and what actions you take.

Be Open:

Part of your role as a leader is to build an effective team. Ask your team members, ‘How can I support you in your role?’ By being vulnerable enough to open yourself up to your team, you not only build trust, but demonstrate that you appreciate their opinions and insights.

Hire A Coach:

Everygreat player has a great coach. Everyone needs someone they can bounce things off of and work with. Hiring an executive coach allows for authentic feedback, unattached input, brainstorming, real life practice, and we all know that perfect practice makes perfect.

360 Leadership Assessments:

This tool highlights your leadership capabilities, including execution, communication, people management, and so on. This provides an objective view of your strengths and weakness, allowing you to focus on areas you need to develop or delegate to be more effective.

Be A Mentor:

Nothing forces someone to step up their game and live out their best than being a mentor to a young up and comer. Allowing another young hustler or green exec to spend time underneath you positions both participants for growth. In my experience I have learned far more from my mentees than I ever taught them.

Live & Lead Exceptionally!

Eric Sims
Eric is a Contact Center Outsourcing expert who specializes in helping businesses help their customers. He is the Cofounder & CEO of Leading Edge Connections, LLC, America's #1 fully remote outsourced contact center. He is also the host of Preventing Brand$laughter. A weekly podcast that helps business gain the insights and information to protect their brand from self-inflicted sabotage.


  1. Emotional intelligence is the #1skill we need. It involves self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and social skills. A great read!


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