Self-awareness can accelerate your leadership!
  • Jayne McQuillan

Self-awareness can accelerate your leadership!

Updated: Jan 9, 2019



Have you ever had the experience where a friend or business associate pushes an issue because they are convinced that someone else is the problem? 


We all see the world through our individual lenses, but without expanding those lenses, we limit our leadership and thus our effectiveness to influence and grow ourselves, our teams, and our organizations. Harvard Business Review calls these self-limiting behaviors. 


Let me share a recent interaction I had with a client. I was engaged to help evaluate the businesses current state and to provide recommendations of how to move the company forward into the future. The individual that initially called is part owner in the business and is both very competent in their skills, but also very strong in personality. Both can be great leadership skills when individual awareness is high and the following self-awareness behaviors exist. 


  1. “I’m accountable for my life and my career, and I have what it takes. If I fail, I will still wake up tomorrow exactly who I am, and I will have learned something critical.”

  2. Take bold actions towards their visions. They don’t mistake wishful thinking for action.

  3. Know how they contribute uniquely and what value they bring. Tackle challenges head on, speaking about them openly, with calm poise and grace. Don’t perceive themselves as helpless victims.

  4. Invest in indidvidual growth. Successful people don’t wait or put off, they spend money, time, and effort on their own growth, because they know it will pay off for themselves and everyone around them.

  5. Go with the flow. They follow the trends and embrace them. They are flexible, fluid and nimble. They react to what’s in front of them and improvise skillfully. 

  6. Know specifically how they want to use their talents and passions in the world and commit to living out their vision and purpose. To do this, they are very clear about their priorities in life and work, and won’t be waylaid by the priorities and values of others. 

  7. Believe in oneself without fail. Now that doesn’t mean arrogance, but acknowledge they have gaps and or blind spots, and areas that need development. But they forgive themselves for what they don’t know and the mstakes they’ve made, and accept themselves. They keep going with hope and optimism, knowing that the lessons learned from the missteps will serve them well in the future.

  8. Respectful, resourceful, curious, competent, tenacious, and they figure out how to get the help they need without asking for handouts. They know that their success is directly proportionate to the effort they put in. They understand that there are no short cuts or easy answers on the road to success.

A study by the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations (2010) found self-awareness to be the strongest predictor of overall success. 


So how do these eight points relate to my example. In my first meetings, a couple of the words and phrases that came out of my client were conspiracy, lack of accountability, inability to resolve conflict, he/she doesn’t take action, he/she is not clear, he/she is not considered strong, and “I mirror healthy relationships.” 


Awareness of one’s own weaknesses enable executives to work with others who have differing strengths to them, and they are more easily able to accept the idea that someone else may have better ideas or abilities than their own, and therefore benefit from that perspective. On the other hand, a lack of self-awareness can potentially alienate others, through misunderstanding the impact of their actions on others. It is a hard skill to define. Many people see themselves as being self-aware when they are not. In fact, it is often noted by psychologists that those who claim to know themselves the best are often the least self-aware. 


This leads back to #4, in that self awareness is an ongoing process. You’re never done. It’s not something gained by a one-off personality assessement that categorizes you as fitting into a box or as a series of letters. It is a process of reflection that takes place over years. It is a continual checking back in with the “self” to see where you are at. How you are perceived by others and what your current strengths and weaknesses are. It is striving to improve and to understand where you are at and how your thinking and actions are influenced by your experiences. Where do your baises lie and how can you overcome these so the world can be viewed in a more realistic way?


How would you rate the self-awareness of my client? How would you rate your own self-awarenss?


“Remember your perception of the world is a reflection of your state of consciousness.”

—Ekhart Tolle  


Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay


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