Self-Awareness Part 1 | Leadership Begins With Leading Yourself First.

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Awareness is the catalyst for change

Leadership is important. On social media there are numerous daily posts and articles discussing crucial aspects of leadership like the ability to lead your team to build high-performance. However, before we can influence and lead others, we must first learn to lead ourselves. Personally, I prefer to define leadership as bringing out the best in myself and in those around me. So, when we discuss leadership what we’re really talking about is bringing out the best in ourselves. The question is how do we accomplish this? The short answer is it requires many things and the place to start is with increasing our self-awareness. Afterall, awareness is the catalyst for change. Unfortunately, for many of us, our self-awareness is so low it impedes our ability to lead effectively or influence others.

Leading yourself first begins with self-awareness

It is easy to blame others when things don’t go to plan and then look to others to solve our problems for us. This thinking is flawed because we see our problems as external to us. We tend to blame others or expect it’s up to someone else to fix what we think is broken. Rather than look outside of us, instead we need to focus on ourself, and ask the tough question – “what am I willing to be responsible for?”

Answering this question starts with self-examination. In my experience, we need two things for this: willingness and courage. We must be willing and courageous to take an honest and hard look at ourself. Self-examination of our life is uncomfortable because we may not like what we discover, yet it is necessary to elevate our self-awareness. Other ways to increase our awareness includes asking others for direct feedback on how they experience us and by examining the quality of our relationships. Ultimately, we are the constant in all our relationships. Raising our self-awareness is just the start. Once we’ve identified where our shortcomings are, it’s up to us to do something to address the ‘gap.’ No one else can close the gap for us. The work requires courage to own what we find, take responsibility for, and ultimately transform. This is what leading yourself is about and a necessary step towards living the life you want.

Photo by Alysha Rosly on Unsplash

Be 100% responsible for everything in your life

In almost all the leadership development work I have undertaken or I’m aware of, the most salient points almost always distil down to us being willing to take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in our life. I used to resist this idea, often with great energy. Where I was the one who chose to take a particular action, I found it relatively easy to take 100% responsibility if the outcome wasn’t what I’d planned for. However, where unwanted outcomes occurred to me as the result of someone else’s action I resisted taking full responsibility, “how am I responsible for something they did?”

The idea of taking full responsibility for everything in my life only recently fully dropped into place for me. Earlier this year, while reading the idea of Being the Board in the Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, I suddenly got to see that instead of apportioning blame to others, I am “the framework for everything that happens in my life. If I feel wronged, or a loser or victim, I remind myself that some assumption I made is the source of my difficulty.” By re-framing life this way, when unwanted circumstances arise, it helps me to see the decisions or assumptions I made earlier that led to these circumstances. Now, when I feel aggrieved by the impact of someone else’s actions, I reflect on and see every assumption and decision I made, including my decision to associate with that person in the first place. It is a much more empowering place to come from.

In summary, leadership is about becoming the best version of ourselves. This process starts by leading ourselves first and raising our level of self-awareness. This requires us to be willing to self-examine all aspects of our life and muster up the courage to own, take responsibility for and transform what we find. How we deal with our shortcomings to close the ‘gap’ is our responsibility. Our ability to respond is, in a nutshell, what responsibility is all about. In Part 2 on Self-Awareness, I will delve more deeply into the transformative nature of responsibility and how Being responsible for everything that happens in life is essential to cause the outcomes we want in life.