When facing a big decision, how many of us have been told to “go with your gut”? The power of instinctual thought is lauded in leadership biographies and articles touting “the split-second decision that changed my life.” But what if those stories hold power because their favorable outcomes were unusual? Instinct is fine when deciding what car to buy. However, for decisions that truly matter, self-awareness is a better barometer than the churning of your insides.
Self-aware individuals understand all the ways they are influenced by hidden biases, assumptions, and expectations. They recognize their strengths and weaknesses, the gaps in their knowledge, and when they need better data to make the right choice. And, while self-aware executives may rely on the occasional quick decision, those choices will be grounded in data, derived from a deep understanding of their personal motivations, diverse stakeholder viewpoints, and a keen knowledge of the business environment.
It’s not surprising that researchers found that self-awareness was the strongest predictor of overall success for leaders, accounting for 30% of the variation in leadership effectiveness. People who see themselves with clarity and understand their impact on others are better leaders and even happier human beings, as well.
Unconscious Bias and Other Obstacles to Self-awareness
However, achieving and maintaining self-awareness can be challenging, and it gets harder as executives advance professionally. Research published in the Harvard Business Review reveals that many leaders claim to possess self-awareness, yet only a small fraction of people — around 10 to 15 percent — actually embody this trait.