The Self-Aware Leader – Why You Should Know

By Marianne Renner: Leadership Coach, Speaker, Author

I recently worked with a high-level leader who was struggling with strained workplace relationships.

She was a high performer, but relationship friction created disruption in the workplace. It was like throwing sand in the gears of performance, productivity, and team engagement.

When relationships suffer, everything suffers.

In a matter of a few short months, everything turned around.

By the end of our time together, her managers were energized, relationships flourished, and respect returned, as did her confidence and ability to lead in all other areas.

It was such a large shift in a brief time that I asked her, “what changed?”

“Awareness,” she replied. “At first, I couldn’t see my role. I thought someone else was the problem.”

Awareness is like having a golden key that unlocks a magic door to new growth, new outcomes, and a world of new possibilities.

When leaders lack self-awareness, culture in the workplace deteriorates, and drama escalates. The work at hand just doesn’t move forward. It’s frustrating for teams and costly for organizations.

But what does it mean to have “self-awareness?”

Self-awareness is measured by the gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

Closing that gap comes from increasing your understanding of your behavior and how you come across to others.

An article in Harvard Business Review reports that only 10% – 15% of people are really self-aware, despite the fact that most believe they are (Urich, 2018, “What Self Awareness Really Is,” HBR).

If most people have such a significant blind spot, how do you even begin to even see the gap, let alone change it?

Here are three steps to get you started.


3 Steps to raising Self-Awareness

1. Spot the clues. The first clue that you may have a gap in self-awareness is a general sense of feeling stuck. If you feel stuck in any area, whether in a strained workplace relationship or career crisis, there’s likely a gap in self-awareness.

2. Story-telling. Once you spot the clue of feeling stuck, look for places you’re telling yourself stories that keep you in the gap. Here are examples of common stories: It’s not my fault. It’s someone else’s fault. I have no choice.

3. Create a new story. Once you’ve identified the story you’re telling about the situation, rewrite the story by asking new questions. “What’s my role in the situation? What new role can I play to achieve a new outcome?” By identifying the role you play, you empower yourself to change the situation.


When you close the gap in your self-awareness, you’ll open yourself up to a world of new possibilities.


Understanding your personality traits can lead to greater self-awareness. Check out my DISC personality assessment and learn how to connect more effectively with others.

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