It happens slowly over time, like the air seeping out of a tire. The hiss of the hum lulls you into a state of complacency. Before you know it, your most ambitious goals, once firmly within reach, are fading fast. Without realizing it, you’ve adopted and animated attitudes and actions that knocked you off track here and there. You feel like you may never catch up.
This is why self-awareness in leadership is vital. To stay on course, you must be aware of how your thoughts create emotions that trigger behaviors that either yield short-term consequences or long-term gains. We often get what we want in the moment, but that doesn’t mean we are getting where we want to go in the long run. Being reactionary too often and not realizing soon enough is a real risk for leaders with ambitious goals.
Walking the line as a leader takes an unwavering willingness to commit to continually learning about yourself and how you impact other people and constantly adapting your mindset. If learning to lead never stops, self-awareness is the engine of professional and personal advancement.
Here are some of the insidious ways that leaders unwittingly derail their dreams:
- Worrying too much about what other people think
Feedback from other people about how you affect them is important, but it’s also critical to limit any tendency to become paralyzed by how other people see you to the point where you are acting in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. There’s the risk of living someone else’s life and diverting attention from your legacy path.
- Engaging in maniacal micro-managing
Many leaders struggle with the overwhelming urge to take the wheel from their teams. This is a draining distraction for leaders and takes time and attention away from loftier goals. Micro-managing is poison to your purpose and your executive presence. Leaders with integrity honor that others have their jobs to do and don’t stand in the way of another person’s purpose.
- Participating in corrosive comparisons
Everyone can feel insecure, even the most adept, dynamic leaders. Feeling like we are inferior to others can cloud our decisions and divert us from what we ultimately want. Not only that, it’s simply a waste of time. People who dare to be themselves fully and take risks are the ones who influence others.
- Trading long-term goals for reactionary gains
Navigating human relationships is likely the source of most of your struggles. It’s easy to let the immediacy of intense emotions hijack our happiness. For example, when abrasive leaders lash out, they get the real-time gain of making someone feel small, but the consequences are big in the long-run. Or, when you engage in busy work rather than being creative to potential rejection. Self-awareness, the ability to create space around thoughts to give emotions room to breathe, can minimize times when you feel like you act and speak before looking through the lens of your big goals.
- Dwelling on the past
Everyone makes mistakes. It’s not about how many times you get knocked down. What counts is how many times you get back up. You have the power to start ever new in each moment and to recommit to achieving your highest potential. Your past doesn’t have to dictate your future and the power is within your reach to start fresh in the fertile ground of present possibility.Every day we face choices that are either propelling us toward our highest potential or throwing us off course. Self-awareness—understanding why you think what you think and why you do what you do—can help you make decisions daily that will advance you toward a legendary legacy.
What would you add to the list?