Thoughts on Self-Awareness and Leadership

There's a theme to my blog posts. Paying attention! 

I'm always thinking about balance. How do we find balance between working and not working? Between being busy and having down time? The obvious answer is paying attention and being intentional: using self-awareness to be more effective.

In my webinar this past week about self-awareness and leadership, I asked whether people had the habit of pausing throughout the day to do a self-check in?  To ask yourself, how am I doing right now? The alternative is to suddenly feel so overwhelmed or exhausted that it comes upon you like being hit by a brick! At least for me, the "being hit by a brick" feeling happens with extreme fatigue or extreme overwhelm. I know I'm more productive and effective when I practice intention. Not surprising.

Self-awareness is about paying attention to how you feel, how others experience you, and by honestly acknowledging strengths and weaknesses. It means admitting when you don't have the answer and owning up to mistakes.

Research states that self-awareness is the most critical leadership skill and the strongest predictor of overall success. (Nicol & Sparrow 2010). Developing skills pertaining to self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management, account for close to 90% of what distinguishes outstanding performers or leaders from others.  The qualities commonly associated with management and leadership – being authoritative, decisive, forceful, perhaps somewhat controlling – if not moderated by a high degree of awareness as to how one comes across and is perceived by others, are also qualities that have the potential to easily alienate those on the receiving end.

When we acknowledge what we have yet to learn, we model that it's okay to admit we don't have all the answers, to make mistakes and most importantly, to ask for help. I believe these must be characteristics of places where learning is the business we do.

Think about the climate of your program. Climate is what it’s like to work in a place – how it feels. EC leaders can shape the environment and interactions within a setting that either encourages people to be productive and successful or not all of which require energy. Without self-awareness, we often deplete energy from the organizational climate without even knowing it.

How you are – your style, your moods, your vision, your philosophy your clarity your communication style – everything about how you are and what you say and do models for others in your setting. And as leader, you shape the program’s climate.

My suggestion to early childhood leaders interested in moving programs for young children towards increased quality is to actively work at self-awareness. One way to do this is to cultivate the habit of pausing to think about how you feel before handling any of the typical challenges of the day. Just a quick pause can make the difference between a reaction that you might regret and a response that can lead to a positive outcome.