Leadership Self-Awareness

Even the best leaders have blind spots. No one sees themselves as accurately as other people do. If you want a true assessment of your leadership impact, it’s important to get feedback from others.

That can be tricky, according to coaching expert Madeleine Blanchard and assessments expert Dr. Vicki Essary, both of The Ken Blanchard Companies.

Finding the right assessment is the first challenge, according to Essary.

“When you are looking for a way to assess perceptions of your leadership behavior, be sure to consider only those assessments that are validated for measuring these behaviors accurately. A legitimate leadership assessment is different than an online survey or a quiz in a magazine, where the questions might be interesting but are not rooted in research or written by experts who know how to evaluate professional performance.”

The second challenge is being open to feedback and willing to change, says Blanchard.

“It’s important to seek out feedback and do something with it. A lot of people appear to seek feedback—because they think it is politically correct—but they have no intention of letting themselves be influenced by it or taking action because of it. This can be a serious credibility buster.”

Blanchard and Essary share that even though it can be uncomfortable to receive feedback contrary to what you believe about your own leadership behavior, it’s important to be open to feedback and see it as an opportunity for personal growth and development.

“Generally, our first reaction is to defend ourselves, explain it away, or rationalize the behavior,” explains Blanchard. “But it doesn’t matter if you disagree—just be open to feedback. Even if you aren’t happy with what is being said, consider for a moment, ‘What if they’re right?’ ‘What could I learn from this?’ The same goes for feedback that you automatically discount because you think it comes from someone you don’t like or respect. In the case of an anonymous 360°assessment, you might think you know who gave negative feedback. But think: what if you are wrong and the negative feedback about your behavior came from someone you really respect?”

Blanchard and Essary point to the work of Daniel Goleman, who created a four domain model of emotional intelligence. In this model you begin with self-awareness and move to self-regulation, then to awareness of others, and then modulation of self when working with others.

“Leaders who get things done know how to inspire people, prod people, and sometimes push people, but always in a way that is appropriate,” says Blanchard. “It’s a delicate balance. The key is to manage perceptions person by person. You might need to be a little edgy with one person to communicate the message, ‘You seem to be phoning it in.’ With another person you might want to say, ‘You are going over the top here. You’re on fire, but you’re in danger of burning out if you don’t chill out a little.’”

The goal, according to Blanchard and Essary, is to make sure the impact you are going for is the one you are actually making.

Getting Started

Ready to get started? Blanchard and Essary recommend you don’t try to change too much too fast.

“Start by noticing personal patterns,” says Blanchard. “You might notice, for example, that you tend to interrupt people. It doesn’t mean you have to completely stop interrupting people right this very minute. It just means you have to observe. Once you start seeing patterns you’ll notice there might be one, two, three, or more habits you could modify.

“Then prioritize. Of the seven behaviors you do that are not serving you, choose two or possibly three to work on. Before you make final choices, apply a feasibility metric by asking yourself the question, ‘Which of these can I actually do something about?’ You want to pick habits you can actually change without getting a personality transplant. Choose behaviors that are going to have the most impact on perception and that are also humanly possible for you to do. For example, if you aren’t a warm and fuzzy person you don’t have to try to become one, but you can learn to smile more at your employees.”

“Many personal change efforts fail because people try to change too much too fast,” adds Essary. “Begin with observation and awareness, watch for patterns, and then select a few high impact behaviors that are modifiable.”

Enlist Others

Blanchard and Essary also recommend that leaders don’t go it alone.

“One thing people can do to support their journey is to have a buddy,” says Essary. “Find people in your organization who are working on the same goal of increasing self-awareness. Do activities with them, set goals, and hold each other accountable. Consider working with a coach—get support one way or another.”

Blanchard and Essary share that the more a leader communicates about goals they’ve set for themselves, the more people will realize that the leader is making an effort and the more likely they will give the leader feedback. Doing this builds a virtuous circle of growth.

“Take it slow and pace yourself,” adds Blanchard, “because it’s a never-ending journey. Every individual you work with is going to have different perceptions. With practice, you’ll start developing a sixth sense of leadership awareness. Continue to ask, ‘Is the impact I’m having the one I intended to have?’”


Would you like to learn more about increasing leadership self-awareness in your organization? Then join us for a free webinar!

Leadership Self-Awareness: Getting Started with Knowing Yourself Better

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Even the best leaders have blind spots. The difference is, they know the importance of identifying and addressing blind spots so that they don’t become major stumbling blocks to performance and promotion. When was the last time you had a leadership checkup? What are you waiting for? In this special online presentation, leadership development experts Madeleine Blanchard and Vicki Essary look at how to successfully increase your self-awareness as a leader through the proper use of assessments, feedback, and coaching. Together they will share with participants:

  • Identifying your intent versus your impact—including who to survey (and who not to)
  • Tools and techniques for gaining a greater sense of self—including what to look for in an assessment
  • Responding to your results—including how to deal with negative feedback
  • Taking action—including strategies for making necessary changes

Self-awareness is a key attribute in a leader’s development. Take your first steps toward an open and honest assessment of your leadership style by successfully discovering and learning from other people’s perceptions of you as a leader.

View On-demand