The Most Important Leadership Activity - and the Simplest!
by Laurie Sudbrink on March 3rd, 2016

So many leaders are striving to make a big difference in their organizations, their communities, and on their teams, when in fact the most important leadership activity is not something heroic or huge. It’s something each and every one of us has the capability to do. It’s something that can and should be done every day. It’s something that will make an impact in small ways that will create the big differences we’re all looking for. It’s the practice of self-awareness.

I was talking with a client the other day who said he has made great strides in practicing self-awareness through all the tips and techniques we’ve shared over the years, such as:
  • Taking time each morning and evening (and other times throughout the day), to pay attention to how you are feeling and what you are thinking.
  • Fully accepting yourself.
  • Realizing the thoughts in your mind are just stories - that you can change at anytime!
  • Paying attention to your emotions and using them as a trigger to be aware and self-reflect.
  • Taking responsibility for what you’re putting in your mind, and your body (proper food, thoughts and rest).
  • Letting yourself feel emotions and allow them to pass through (rather than resisting them).
He confided that the toughest situation for him is when he is in the moment and doesn’t realize he is reacting a certain way. He gave the example of getting impatient with his team as they struggled with an issue and rather than proactively working together to solve it, they came to him for a solution. His impatience is what he realized was the issue, as he would then react in a way that did not support empowering the team to work together. Often the team would be confused and misinterpret his behavior. So he asked me how he could be more mindful while it was happening, so he could react the way he knew he should.

Isn’t that what we are all striving for - the automatic behavior that is aligned with who we really are? Imagine looking back at every situation and smiling, being happy about how you acted. This is exactly the practice of Truth and Integrity in the GRIT model (Leading With GRIT, Wiley 2015). Being self-aware is one leadership activity that has a big impact on others. It does take effort, the motivation to want to, the discipline to practice, sometimes help from others and it takes time. It really can be the simplest activity though because we have what it takes to make it happen.

For most of us, we need to be patient with self-awareness. What stories are we creating around that - are we expecting too much too soon? If we are diligently practicing, and we are asking others to help us be aware, then just like playing a sport or an instrument, soon you will be in the flow and performing almost effortlessly.

This indeed is the way you will make the biggest difference in your organizations. You don’t have to be a hero to be a great leader. You just need to practice self-awareness, which will lead to great results beyond yourself.

Share with us what you do to be more self-aware, and what great results you’ve noticed!

Take the free GRIT assessment for self-awareness.


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