Every leader has goals such as building a team delivering appropriately high results, achieving the company’s goals (both short- and long-term) along with motivating and inspiring others to act. The role is inseparable from exerting a positive influence on other people (team members, co-workers). However, for this to happen, a leader must be distinguished by a highly developed self-awareness and self-regulation enabling effective self-understanding and self-management – often these two aspects can play a key role on the way to success in this type of role. Below we discuss exactly what these two abilities are and why they are so important in leadership.
Self-awareness and self-regulation in leadership – table of contents:
What is self-awareness?
Self-awareness is the ability to understand oneself – one’s thoughts, feelings, desires, intentions, and overall perception of oneself as an individual separate from other people. It is a key component of human psychology that influences our behavior, thoughts, decision-making, or interactions with the environment. There are many theories about how it arises – some scientists believe it is the result of evolution, while others believe it is an innate trait. There is no single, universally accepted theory that explains where it comes from, but there is a consensus on which types we most often distinguish 3 abilities:
- cognitive – to understand one’s thoughts, beliefs, skills and limitations (including, most importantly, reflecting on one’s actions and making decisions based on that reflection),
- emotional – to recognize one’s own emotions, their sources and the impact they have on one’s behavior (when it is high, a person copes better with stress or conflict, among other things),
- social – to see one’s role in society and one’s relationships with other people (including how to build them), but most importantly how our actions affect others.
Is self-regulation the same as self-awareness?
Self-regulation is the power to control and direct one’s thoughts, emotions and behavior – so it is something different from self-awareness. However, both have undoubtedly few things in common . As a key element of healthy psychological and social functioning, self-regulation enables you to adapt actions to a particular life situation, both professional and private (as well as to certain goals, values, social norms, etc.). It is worth having it at a high level because it lets you better manage various life situations (including through impulse control, stress management, maintaining attention and concentration, and controlling your emotions).
The importance of self-awareness and self-regulation in leadership
Why are the elements discussed so essential to effective leadership? Because they help you make better decisions and manage your team.
Self-awareness allows you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses so as a leader, you’ll take on the tasks you feel you are capable of performing. Moreover, it makes you aware of the impact you have on others, which translates into building positive relationships with employees and business partners), as well as taking responsibility on your shoulders (by admitting mistakes and taking action to correct them).
This element, in turn, is essential for leaders to remain calm and make the right decisions even under pressure (e.g., crisis management). This ability enhances leaders’ control over their emotions so that they avoid harmful actions for the organization with the wrong reasons behind them), as well as ensures that they can handle difficult situations, which supervisors encounter very often. It also makes concentration on the task better – it keeps people focused on the goal and avoids distractions, which is also important in such a position.
Self-awareness and self-regulation in leadership – summary
Naturally, self-awareness and self-regulation are not the only elements necessary for effective leadership. But they can undeniably have a significant impact on a leader’s ability to achieve goals, build an effective team as well as motivate and inspire colleagues to action.
Together, self-awareness and self-regulation bolster leaders’ authenticity, empathy and understanding – and thus also effectiveness. The crucial thing is that these two skills, although innate to some extent, can be strengthened and developed, including through special techniques (e.g. meditation), self-reflection, using the feedback one receives, or working on impulse control, stress management and concentration.