Everyone wants to find that one recipe for success, but few people actually manage to achieve it. When it comes to making it big, there’s a complex mix of factors that come into play. These factors can include a thousand little things from timing, market, and environment, among others. Figuring out the right mix can often take years, sometimes decades, and not everyone reaches the same level of success in the same way.
However, recent studies have pinpointed one thing that great businesspeople have in common: self-awareness. In 2012, The MIT Sloan Review published a study on how to become a better leader. One of the factors that was key in this study was the concept of self-awareness. Self-awareness was seen as a baseline, without which executives wouldn’t be able to evolve or find coping strategies.
The study surveyed 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council, and found that they rated self-awareness as one of the most important abilities for a leader to develop. Korn/Ferry International’s ProSpective Assessment shows that companies with a higher rate of return or stronger financial performance tend to have employees with higher levels of self-awareness, as compared with poorer performing companies.
But despite the importance of self-awareness, it seems to be in short supply. Hay Group Research did a survey of 17,000 individuals worldwide on emotional and social intelligence in matrix work environments. While women were found to exhibit more self-awareness at 19%— compared with just 4% of men— there’s definitely room for improvement.
If that’s not enough to convince you, then here’s 10 more reasons why you need self-awareness.
The best tool you will have when it comes to tackling the world of business isn’t your degree or your connections: it’s you. Dr. Travis Bradberry describes self-awareness as one of the components of personal competence, which is made up of self-awareness and self-management. By being aware of yourself, your capabilities, and your flaws, you’ll have a better idea of how to approach problems and formulate solutions.
Awareness of External Factors
Self-awareness isn’t all internal. By being aware of yourself and your place in the scheme of things, you’ll also be able to more easily pinpoint external factors that may have an effect on you or your business. These external factors can include the way others behave towards you, and your responses to them.
Understanding the Source of Negativity
You’re able to better understand your own psychology when you’re self-aware. Self-awareness helps you learn from past patterns and overcome them more easily. Being aware of what makes you frustrated or upset only means that you’ll have better methods of coping in the future. Also, by discussing your flaws more openly, you also invite more people to share and overcome their own.
Admitting Flaws or Mistakes
Self-awareness also means accountability. When you’re aware of yourself and your capabilities, you tend to have fewer blind spots. And when you do stumble upon these blind spots, it’s easier for you to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Accountability is a crucial part of leadership, and admitting mistakes will only help you get to the solution faster.
Collecting Trusted Feedback
Just because you think you’re self-aware doesn’t mean that your development is static. You’re constantly changing and growing as an individual, and being self-aware is only maximizing that growth. One of the best ways to do this is by collecting feedback from people you trust. Feedback can help you better address the blind spots of your personality, such as if you’re easily frustrated or discouraged. Leaders are made better by being aware of their flaws. Gathering feedback also helps you understand the impact of your actions on others in your team.
If you’re self-aware, you have a better understanding of both yourself and the situation. This is an essential trait in leadership, as the position can come with a lot of pressure and snap decisions. Self-awareness is also a form of risk management for your business. Self-aware leaders are more likely to deal positively with high-pressure situations, as they’re able to make informed decisions quickly without succumbing to frustration or panic.
Considering the Circumstances
According to the MIT Sloan study discussed above, many self-aware CEOs were able to identify “outlier tendencies” and adjusted their behavior accordingly in order to change the way they were perceived. They were able to more completely consider the circumstances, and therefore react in a way that was both skillful and true to themselves. They were able to identify which situations required specific aspects of their personality, and react appropriately.
One of the key factors in self-awareness is also being able to assess your own behaviors. A self-aware leader is more able to identify patterns in their thinking or behavior, allowing them to maximize these patterns to their best ability. With self-awareness, you can figure out what it is exactly that makes you great, and simply do more of it. You can also more easily asses the behaviors of others around you and act in a way that best befits the situation.
Another skill that shows why you need self-awareness is the ability to manage emotions. How you react to certain situations emotionally will have a big impact on both you and your team. Effective leaders have mastery over their emotions, and know when it’s best to show emotion and when it’s best to keep their cards close to their chests. Your team will follow your lead, so being aware and in control of your feelings is doubly important.
New York Times journalist Adam Bryant has interviewed over 585 CEOs over the last ten years, and most of them have one thing in common. Bryant found that CEOs had a distinct “applied curiosity” about the world around them— they tended to question everything, wanting to know how things worked and how they could be made to work better. Self-awareness is a key factor in this, as without it, one’s awareness of one’s internal and external worlds would be severely lacking. This awareness also makes you more creative and open to new and innovative ideas, which will help you climb the ladder of success.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.