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  • Writer's pictureKatharina Kugler

The No. 1 Skill For Leaders Of The New Era: Self-Awareness

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials will represent 75% of the global workforce by 2025. Right now, they are already representing more than 50%—securing management roles and transforming the traditional leadership models that once defined them.

For many years we have experienced the effects of increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—everything seems to be changing at a speed that is difficult to keep up with. Need we mention the C-word?

With this influx of millennial leaders and a new era of work at play, business (as we know it) has no other choice but to adapt.

Leadership and self-awareness

In this age, it takes a whole new set of skills to succeed as a leader.

So what’s the common thread? After taking a closer look at the traits and characteristics of millennial leaders, and how they are transforming the workplace, it has become clear that the key enabler for effective and future-proof leadership has a lot to do with self-awareness.

Self-aware leaders not only have a clearer sense of purpose but also a stronger sense of direction, and thus experience increased levels of influence and success.

What is self-awareness and why is it important?

In a nutshell, self-awareness is the ability to reflect on one’s values, passions, aspirations, personality, strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, feelings, behaviours and patterns. This allows one to see themself for who they really are, rather than who they seem to be. Self-awareness involves discovering once-hidden truths, as well as strategically identifying (and filling) the gaps in our own thinking. Self-awareness happens on two levels:

1) Internal self-awareness

Where one becomes aware of their inner being and develops the ability to observe and reflect closely on what they find out about themselves. This internal process was found to be positively linked to higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, happiness and reduced levels of anxiety, stress and depression. It makes sense because you can make better decisions with more comprehensive information available.

2) External self-awareness

Where one becomes aware of how others see them. If people perceive your personality similarly to how you see yourself, you most likely act from a place of authenticity. This, in turn, nurtures more honest and strong relationships.

Many studies assert that greater self-awareness leads to positive business outcomes. They also show that people with more accurate self-conception tend to perform better and that high levels of self-awareness stand in direct correlation to someone's performance;

According to Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, who put self-awareness as one of four areas of emotional intelligence, 83% of people with high self-awareness are top performers.

In his research titled Mindful Self-Awareness as the Basis for Effective Leadership, Dr. Lippincott examined the relationship between emotional self-awareness and leader effectiveness and reported that 100% of the participants noticed a significant improvement in workplace effectiveness, 81% described its impact on stress reduction and 79% mentioned more effective workplace relationships,

Funny enough that a series of surveys for the book Insight (by organisational psychologist Tasha Eurich) discovered that while 95% of people believed they were self-aware, only 15% actually were. Oops!

Principles to enhance your self-awareness capabilities

In order to understand yourself better, you need to spend time with yourself— quiet time. Unlike many other things, this time doesn’t need to be marked as strict study time in your diary. You can develop self-awareness almost anytime and anywhere.

1. Practice

Self-awareness is a skill that can be cultivated through (mindfulness) practice, by observing one’s thoughts and emotions. It requires a constant effort that one consciously has to invest in to maintain. As with anything, practice makes progress, so be sure to include a few moments of stillness into your everyday life.

2. Ability to push through discomfort

Critically questioning assumptions about one’s self, and pushing past the discomfort of receiving and acting on feedback, are challenging hurdles in becoming more self-aware. It’s not always a comfortable process, but one that will elevate your personal growth exponentially. Don’t fear the discomfort, embrace it.

3. Doing the “deep work”

Self-awareness requires the ability to not only acknowledge one’s values, personality, needs, habits and emotions but also then channel them in a way that guides your actions and the actions of others.

4. Adopting a growth mindset

Another attribute that self-awareness yields is exercising a growth mindset, along with a continuous desire to improve and look forward. This comes from recognising your strengths, weaknesses, biases and drivers. Leaders with a growth mindset take more accountability and seek feedback more often.

5. Being humble

Humility is also a major trait associated with self-awareness. This stems from achieving an accurate understanding of oneself and our blind spots so that we can seek help in the areas we could do better. Being humble also leads to a better understanding of other people and generally having a higher appreciation for their diverse skills and backgrounds.

A framework to guide your self-awareness journey

Developing higher levels of self-awareness isn’t rocket science, but it does require a certain commitment to look beyond the obvious. We’ve created this framework to support your journey:

Be the observer of your mind.

Question any reactions or feelings positively and judgment-free. Try to consciously become an observer of yourself, watch your thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Then reflect on what the observer (you) is telling you.

💡 Identify factors and triggers that prompt others’ behaviours towards, or away, from you.

Know your strengths and weaknesses.

You don’t have to be good at everything. Focus on the activities in which you thrive without effort, and seek help in the areas you struggle with. Nobody is perfect. Try to work and operate in your “zone of genius” as much as possible—these are the areas you’re great at and activities that you love doing.

💡 Think about when to utilise a strength to your advantage and when it’s best to let someone else shine. Are you aware of when your ego traps you in “wanting to be in control of it all”? Don’t let it take over.

Stay true to yourself—know your purpose and values.

It is hard to act authentically when your actions are conflicting with what you stand for. Know the values that you want to live by and always give yourself the time to check whether your actions and behaviour align with them. Get to the bottom of your “Why”, map your values, then take it from there. Keeping your personal and professional life in alignment with your belief system guides you to the route that is most reflective of who you aspire to be.

💡 Assess what you’re doing in light of what matters to you. The best outcome of self-awareness is figuring out what makes you unique, and being more of it.

Acknowledge your feelings and emotions.

Try not to put a good or bad label on whatever you are feeling, and instead embrace and acknowledge it as a means to guide or teach you something.

Give yourself the chance to sit with how you feel, and take time to dive deeper—gain insight into what is causing these feelings.

💡 Keep in mind that new circumstances create new triggers and may lead to different reactions. Your leadership style is not set in stone.

Seek and appreciate feedback.

Self-awareness doesn’t have to be an isolated, lonely journey. Your trusted circle may play a big role in your pursuit—if you are open to it. Being able to look at yourself from other people's view may give you invaluable insights. Learn how to ask for, reflect on and internalise any feedback on how you are perceived in various situations.

💡 Use your team’s feedback to frame and understand the impact of your actions on others.

So what?

Without a doubt, self-awareness is a critical tool for leadership and business — now more than ever.

If you are interested in finding out more, visit our website at You can also apply to become a member of the humanplus collective, a curated community of spiritual entrepreneurs, creators and leaders (

Lastly, feel free to stalk us on LinkedIn and Instagram. 👋🏽

Many thanks to Manal Belghali andOlivia Williamson for the research and invaluable contribution to this article.

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