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Leadership Characteristics: Self Awareness



Exceptional performers in every domain have very high levels of self-awareness. Over their career, they actively seek methods to ‘unpack’ themselves; to dig deep into their psyche and discover weaknesses, behaviour triggers and dangers which lurk inside. A focus on managing ‘self' is a major contributor to their success. Whereas most are happy to cruise through life, high performers are in a relentless pursuit of self-improvement. This is what sets them apart.

How do we develop increased self-awareness as a leader?


Here are two simple but powerful leadership models which can help, and some questions to reflect on. (In addition to pondering the questions, writing your answers down will, like all reflective-type writing, further increase self-awareness).

The three roles of a leader.


As leaders, we have three roles. We must maintain competency in all three if we are to lead highly functional and engaged teams.


These roles are:

  1. Command (the ‘power’ associated with our job title),

  2. Management (the ‘science’; setting objectives, allocating resources and monitoring progress)

  3. Leadership (the ‘art’ of positively motivating your team)

An exceptional leader will move in and out of each role as different situations arise, but we all find that we naturally feel more comfortable in one role.


  • Where are you comfortable?

  • What are the dangers of staying in that role for too long?

  • What are the triggers in your workplace which would require you to move into another role?

John Adair’s ‘Action Centred Leadership’ model.


As an officer cadet at the Australian Defence Force Academy, I was introduced to this simple leadership model which has been taught to Commonwealth military officers for many decades.


The model describe three focus areas which an effective leader must manage during the conduct of a task. Sometimes called the ‘three circle model’, it looks like this:


The task is everything related to the job itself. Ensuring the team is resourced for the job, monitoring progress, achieving quality standards etc.


The team is managing group dynamics in order to achieve synergy. Allocating responsibilities, building effective communication protocols and resolving frictions all fall inside the 'team circle'.

The individual circle deals with developing the team members. Understanding how they are motivated, and identifying their respective strengths, weakness, worries and concerns are all contained in here.


So, questions for you:


  • During your last project, where did you spend most of your time?

  • Which circle did you devote the least energy to, and what were the consequences of this?

  • If you balanced your attention more evenly, what would be the outcome for you, your team and your organisation?



I know exactly where I feel most comfortable. How about you?

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