3 Keys to Building Self-awareness in Your Leadership

3 Keys to Building Self-awareness in Your Leadership

The value of self-knowledge in leadership is not to be underestimated. Yet all too often, leaders invest too little time into self-reflection.

This can put employee engagement at risk, says Rasmus Hougaard, founder of Potential Project, a provider of corporate mindfulness training programs.

In March, Hougaard will release the report from two years of research in collaboration with Harvard Business Review.

The research includes over 35,000 leaders across more than 120 countries and 900 organisations, plus interviews with over 200 CEOs and C-suite leaders of global organisations.

Hougaard recently released some of their preliminary findings.

One key finding is that leaders need to improve how they create engagement in their people and build people-centric cultures.

The engagement levels they found may come as no surprise, with just 13% of the global workforce engaged and 24% actively disengaged.

What’s more alarming is how leaders seem to have a very different perception of their ability to engage others.

“There is a lot of suffering going on in organizations,” Hougaard says. “For example, 35 per cent of employees would forego a pay raise to see their leader fired.”

Hougaard cites a McKinsey & Co. study of 80,000 leaders, where 77% believed they were doing well engaging people and creating a productive workforce, “But when employees were asked, 82% said their leaders were not good at engagement and productivity.

That’s a massive, massive gap in terms of the way leaders perceive themselves.”

These results are reflected in other research, he adds. “Engagement surveys from Gallup show that over 15 years engagement scales have dropped year by year, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.”

So how can leaders make a better assessment of their own abilities?

Hougaard breaks this down into three key qualities.

1. Mindful leadership

Mindfulness in leadership means presence, focus and awareness despite the myriad of distractions.

The value of this is clearly recognised, with 96% saying they would like to be more mindful, yet 73% said they mostly feel unmindful.

A mindful leader is able to observe and manage their thoughts and emotions, which can often hijack rational behaviour.

Hougaard adds, “If you can’t monitor your mind, you can’t manage your decisions.”

Although It may not be as easy as it sounds.

“If you look at research on how irrational we human beings are, it’s shocking. We think our decisions are based on rational thinking.

However, 95 per cent of decisions are based on emotion.

A Canadian study showed that even judges trained to give measured judgments tend to give shorter sentences before lunch and longer sentences in the late afternoon when they are hungry.”

2. Selfless leadership

The research also revealed that the more leaders are preoccupied with themselves, the more their behaviour is corrupted.

“Leaders with strong sense of self create more conflict and make more mistakes.

Selfless people are better at showing gratitude and being inclusive, and less vulnerable to criticism or susceptible to manipulation.”

Speaking selflessly is an important part of successful leadership and there are simple actions to help achieve this.

He explains, “try not to use I, me, my or mine. Studies conducted in Australia on candidates running for office showed that there was a strong correlation between how people referenced themselves and who wins and loses.”

3. Compassionate leadership

Although compassion and leadership are rarely positively correlated, the research showed that a strong leader has at the core of their focus, a drive to be of benefit to the people they are serving.

Of the leaders surveyed, 91% believe compassion is very important for leadership, and 80% said they wish to increase their compassion but don’t know how.

Compassionate leadership begins with the intention to see as others see.

Assessment tools are a good starting point to build an understanding of different motivational drives and give teams a language to navigate the hurdles that arise from these differences.

The research also showed that organisations with more compassionate cultures and leaders have better collaboration, improved loyalty, more trust and lower staff turnover.

Can your leadership have compassion for all the different personalities in their teams?

How is your organisation building these three key attributes within your leadership teams?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, share them with us below.

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