One of the most valuable assets you can possess when it comes to building your personal brand is a strong sense of self-awareness. When you introspectively understand your own thoughts, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses and how you come across to others, you gain the capacity to mould your brand and your impact.
This is also why successful leadership requires self-awareness. Leaders who are self-aware acknowledge their own competencies and limitations, and this allows them to make informed decisions and leverage their strengths while humbly seeking help or working on those skills that might need a little extra TLC.
When leaders become aware of their own personal goals, responsibilities, and values by developing their personal brand, they can lead and influence their followers more effectively.
What is self-awareness?
Most of us already know that self-awareness involves understanding your emotions, values, beliefs, behaviours, passions, and sense of purpose. It’s the cornerstone of Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (EQ) model, and it’s also a significant part of the Johari window concept, which explores being honest about yourself, recognising your hidden aspects, and more.
A lot of people think they are self-aware, but findings from IO psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich reveal that only around 10-15% of people truly have self-awareness. She labels self-awareness a ‘meta-skill’ for good reason: “Self-awareness is the underlying foundation to all of the skills that are required to succeed in the 21st century. It affects your emotional intelligence, influence, persuasion, and sales. If you are not self-aware, if you do not understand who you are, how others see you, and the role you play in the world, you are going to come up short.”
But self-awareness isn’t the same for everyone. It’s common to notice that we’re more connected to some parts of ourselves than to others. That’s why we need to distinguish between two types: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness.
Internal self-awareness relates to how well we understand our own talents, values, passions, aspirations, feelings, behaviours, strengths, and weaknesses. When someone has good internal awareness, they’re in tune with their feelings and thoughts – the good, the not-so-good, and everything in between. They’re aware of both their strengths and areas where they can grow.
As noted by Harvard Business Review, internal self-awareness is linked to positive outcomes such as satisfaction in work and relationships, perceived self-control, creativity, and overall happiness.
External self-awareness, on the other hand, involves understanding how others perceive us. When you’ve got this knack for understanding how you come across to others, you’re more likely to step into their shoes and really get where they’re coming from.
I’m sure you can recall being in a meeting where someone gets upset, and suddenly, the whole atmosphere changes. If you’re the type of person who’s externally aware – you’d be the first to sense that shift in the room’s energy. Your radar for picking up on these changes would kick in, and you’d naturally step up to defuse the situation and bring things back to a positive note.
How does developing self-awareness relate to establishing your personal brand?
Once you genuinely grasp the concept of self-awareness, it’s quite logical to realise that cultivating self-awareness also plays a significant role in constructing an impactful personal brand.
Remember, personal branding goes beyond the surface, delving deep into the core of who you are, what you stand for, and how you present yourself to the world. It encourages you to introspect, genuinely evaluate your strengths, and understand the unique value you bring to the table. And to be able to do all of this, you need to develop a strong sense of self-awareness.
According to psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund, if you’re highly self-aware, “you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behaviour with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you.”
Aligning image with intention
I would say that for many people, the journey of enhancing self-awareness and constructing a personal brand actually go hand in hand because they are so closely linked. I mean, when you’re working on getting to know yourself better you are basically in the process of building your brand.
The more self-aware you become, the more intentional you can be about how you come across to others, ensuring it aligns with the image you want to project. In the context of leadership and high-potential individuals, personal branding offers a holistic platform for self-discovery.
Being self-aware entails not only accurately assessing your personality and what propels you, but also consistently updating that understanding (which, of course, would also mean consistently revisiting your personal brand). Without this self-awareness, your ability to make a significant impact is always limited.
What makes self-awareness such a big deal in leadership and business?
Great leadership is rooted in possessing self-awareness. If leaders can’t be relatable and don’t know when they’re overstepping, how can they be effective at leading a company?
A person can score high on internal self-awareness but have no clue about how they are seen by others, and vice versa. Adept leaders understand the importance of nurturing both types of awareness (internal and external) – they work on understanding themselves while also staying tuned in to how others perceive them.
When it comes to managing a team, there are moments when you need to be able to read between the lines, as team members often keep certain things unsaid. Leaders have the responsibility of deciphering the subtle dynamics within their team, even when these subtleties aren’t explicitly communicated.
Leaders who practice self-awareness understand how their biases can affect their decisions and actions. This awareness also helps them better understand the needs and feelings of others. They’re ready to adjust their leadership style based on the situation and the people involved. These leaders are open to honest feedback and personal growth.
Research in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that self-aware leaders are also more willing to accept feedback and adjust their leadership to suit their team’s needs. When they openly acknowledge their limitations, they can focus on improving their skills and changing their mindset and behaviours. By showing vulnerability and discussing their weaknesses, they become more relatable and trustworthy to those they lead.
According to Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, 83% of top-performing professionals have a strong sense of self-awareness. On the flip side, only 2% of those at the bottom echelon display this attribute. This just goes to show how important self-awareness is, but it also underscores how challenging it can be to truly attain.
So, how can you become more self-aware?
Developing self-awareness isn’t always a walk in the park, but it can certainly enhance your leadership skills. Here are 5 tips to help you enhance your self-awareness:
- Examine your emotional reactions: People who are self-aware can spot their feelings as they come up. Don’t push your emotions away or pretend they’re not there; instead, try to understand and handle them before engaging with others in communication.
- Seek feedback from those around you: Although self-awareness means getting to know yourself without relying on others, it’s also a brave move (which requires self-awareness too) to ask your employees for truthful feedback. Receiving feedback isn’t always everyone’s favourite thing, but moving past this initial discomfort is actually one of the first important steps on the path to understanding yourself better.
- Begin to look for patterns: Start paying attention to the things you do over and over again, how you feel in different situations, and how you react. Recognising these patterns can offer valuable insights into your thought processes and tendencies, which can help you get to know yourself even more.
- Look for someone to be your accountability partner: Find a trustworthy person who can support your journey to self-awareness. Share your goals with them and ask them to provide honest feedback when they notice inconsistencies or blind spots in your self-perception.
- Engage in self-evaluation regularly: Try to set aside time at regular intervals to reflect on your thoughts, actions, and feelings. This introspective practice allows you to track your personal growth, identify areas for improvement, and refine your understanding of who you are.
The key takeaway
Leaders who actively work on understanding themselves inside and out, gather honest feedback from trusted critics, and focus on “what” instead of “why” can attain a clearer self-perception and enjoy the benefits of a stronger personal brand.
What’s so great about the path to self-awareness is that it’s a never-ending source of rewards and excitement. It’s all because there’s always room to grow and discover new things about yourself.