By Doug Moran
Why Self-Awareness Matters
If we are to become the leaders we have the potential to be, it is essential that we understand who we are and what we believe. While there is a great deal of self-awareness associated with all of the “If” Sixteen Leadership Attributes, these first four in particular—character, authenticity, integrity, and self-efficacy—provide a strong foundation for self-awareness.
This section will help answer the first of the “If” Sixteen Leadership Framework questions: Who am I, and what do I believe? While reading the next four chapters, focus on what truly matters to you. Think about the values and beliefs that define you and your actions. Consider what it would take to live and act in a way that truly reflects who you are. Strong leaders understand that the source of their power is the principles that define who they are. Our principles allow us to discern right from wrong. Abraham Lincoln said, “Important principles may and must be inflexible.” Our principles form the foundation on which we build our personal brand of leadership. In order to know what our principles are, we must first know what matters to us. That is the value and importance of self-awareness.
This first question—Who am I, and what do I believe?—may seem extraordinarily self-absorbed. While it is very inwardly focused, this question is about self-awareness and self-knowledge, not egotism or self-absorption. There is a huge difference. Self-awareness helps us to know ourselves better for the sake of becoming leaders who are worthy of being followed. Self-absorption, on the other hand, is a preoccupation with oneself to the exclusion of others or the outside world. Too few leaders invest enough time and energy in the type of introspection and self-discovery required to become good—let alone great—leaders.
A lack of self-awareness limits leaders to transactional or event-driven change. Many people move from project to project—transaction to transaction—delivering results. They play important roles in their organizations. They are likely to develop dedicated and loyal followings based on their history of success and accomplishment. But regardless of the degree of success they achieve, they are unlikely to reach their fullest potential. This type of success is fine for some people, but many of us are looking for something more meaningful and fulfilling.
This book focuses on transformational leadership—leadership that drives lasting and fundamental change. Sea-change events such as the American Revolution, the end of apartheid, or the end of the Cold War provide examples of transformational leadership; however, transformational leadership isn’t limited to these bigger-than-life examples. We see it in everyday leadership as well, from the person who makes a radical career change to follow her passions to the company that chooses to focus on long-term profitability over short-term results. This type of leadership depends on leaders who know what is truly important.
Creating real and lasting change requires that we know ourselves and those we lead and that they know us. This self-knowledge is what enables us to remain true to ourselves regardless of the situations we confront. It is what gives us the ability to see and understand what we really want.
Understanding the First Four Attributes: Their Interdependence and Distinctions
The following are the first four of the “If” Sixteen Leadership Attributes that are covered in Chapters 1 through 4.
Great leaders understand the necessity of living and leading in ways that are consistent and aligned with their beliefs and values. That is the essence of leading with character—knowing what we believe and value and then ensuring that our actions reflect those beliefs and values. In Chapter 1, the story of President Ronald Reagan illustrates the power of leading with character. Reagan was as complex as any other leader described in this book, yet those close to him often spoke of the consistency of his character. When he spoke, his values and beliefs were always present through words such as “I believe” and “I hope.” He told his audience what he wanted, but more important, he told them why the things he spoke of mattered to him personally.
Authenticity involves being true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. As we inventory and account for those values, beliefs, and traits that define our character, we can begin to define what real means to us. I chose Theodore Roosevelt to illustrate authentic leadership in Chapter 2, because his life was so complex. He was authentically himself in the myriad roles he performed. Whether he was a political leader, soldier, cowboy, athlete, father, son, husband, or explorer, he was always himself. The way he emphasized aspects of his character may have changed from one role to the next, but regardless of the situation, he remained authentic.
Chapter 3 focuses on integrity and discusses the challenges and the obstacles that interfere with our ability to seek, embrace, and defend the truth—to maintain a sound moral character. Integrity requires finding balance and making difficult trade-offs without eroding or diminishing ourselves. It is a matter of integrating all of our values and beliefs and all of the roles we play. Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionary and political leader, represents integrity for one overarching reason. He demonstrated an aspect of integrity that is uncommon today: He changed his mind about a fundamental issue of his day. He had known and defended one truth for most of his life, but when he learned new facts and gained a different perspective, he realized that he had been wrong. This change in position earned him the disdain and contempt of many of his friends and colleagues, and it ultimately cost him his life. Collins knew that integrity meant seeking the truth regardless of the price.
Just as character requires that we continuously inventory and understand our values and beliefs, self-efficacy requires that we do the same thing with our skills, abilities, and preferences. The greatest tests of our self-efficacy are our failures. In Chapter 4, Winston Churchill illustrates the power of a high level of self-efficacy. Despite catastrophic failures throughout his life, Churchill never doubted his destiny to be prime minister. His supreme confidence was rooted in his belief that he possessed the skills and ability to accomplish the goals he set for himself. He knew himself and what he was capable of.
Doug Moran has more than 25 years of leadership experience in a variety of industries. He has worked for Verizon and Capital One (where he was CIO of the financial services division) and served the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia as deputy secretary of health and human resources, chief operating officer of the department of social services, and telecommunications director. His leadership consultancy, If You Will Lead LLC, focuses on leadership development, executive coaching, organization excellence, and infrastructure strategy. He is certified by the International Coach Federation, received his professional training from Georgetown University, and earned a bachelor degree from James Madison University. Moran also serves on the board of the Better Housing Coalition. For more information on the book, visit http://www.agatepublishing.com/book/?GCOI=93284100617310and