Daniel Goleman: A Self-Aware Leader is Not a Self-Obsessed Leader

I have become very interested in self-awareness as a leader’s capacity to take stock, to reflect, to look at things defining a bigger perspective. I spoke with Multiple Intelligences author, Howard Gardner, for my Leadership: A Master Class series about understanding what self-awareness is – and isn’t – for effective leadership.

“Understanding and knowing yourself is a significant aspect of leadership. But I would argue that you’re not able to know yourself with any totality. I also don’t think it’s a valuable feature of a good leader to be obsessive about self, about motivation, and so on.

Self-knowledge needs to be with reference to your role as a leader in the company, which can be pretty expansive. If you have a temper, if you make people feel bad, those are things you need to know.

In other words, some self-reflection or self-knowledge matters, but it should be the right kind. You should have the right focus, which has to do with ‘how am I doing in this role?’ Or ‘What do I need for this role?’

One of the paradoxes is that the higher a leader rises in the ranks, the less performance feedback she receives. People are afraid to tell her, particularly when she’s making mistakes. A leader can think they’re doing fine, not realizing that actually they’re not.

Of course, the wise leader goes out of his or her way to consult with people who will offer honest feedback. That proves they have the right kind of self-knowledge.”

How do you foster “the right type” of self-awareness at work? Share your thought in the comments field.

Learn more about Today’s Leadership Imperative with Howard Gardner in my Leadership: A Master Class video series.

Further reading:

Understanding the science of moods at work

Systems blindness: the illusion of understanding

A leader’s primary task: guide attention

Connect with those you lead

Other resources:

Today’s Leadership Imperative

The HR and EI Collection

What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

Follow @DanielGolemanEI on Twitter for helpful articles, podcasts and videos.

Join the conversation about effective leadership traits on LinkedIn.

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