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How a Lack of Self-Awareness Affects Leadership Skills

Emotional Intelligence is the key difference between successful teams and self-assured destruction.

Over the past four years, I have worked with leaders in small startups, to large multinationals as a consultant. As a firm believer in a client-centric and value-driven approach, I always tried to target root problems in teams, hiring processes, leadership philosophies, etc... The theme of every problem I faced was a lack of EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). Not that those leaders are incapable of empathy, or self-awareness - However, it takes a conscience effort to self-reflect and reflect on how we affect those around us.

Acknowledging that we might be the problem in most of the life events we face is never a smooth process. It is painful to realize that we may actually be the problem and that we may be the ones responsible for our own situations (good or bad). With the above said, I have faced my own struggles with holding myself accountable for negative problems and accepting praise for things my involvement resulted in achievements. In life, we have those who throw blame on everything except look internally; and we have those who are way too hard on themselves, and those are the ones that need to acknowledge, that sometimes, not everything is within their control.

Case examples of how self-awareness results in team and organizational outcomes:

  1. The Impulsive CEO: A CEO who has never taken the time to intimately understand themselves may make decisions based on the heat of the moment, and continuously forget to "sleep on" hard decisions. This CEO may tend to make impulsive financial decisions without even reviewing their cash flow status and upcoming expenses. Such impulsive reactions will result in delayed salary distributions, missing budgets from marketing, or logistics, etc...

  2. Communication Conundrum: A team leader may be unaware of how they come off to other people while communicating (necessarily aggressive, quiet and submissive, weak, lacks confidence). It is important that leaders acknowledge that communication is not just verbally oral or written - but that their posture and body language actually express their communication much more than the words they use. Additionally, they may assume that everyone knows what they know; so they skip foundational parts of the discussion and jump straight into technical coordination for the team. At that point, the team may be too ashamed that they do not know the basics or even where to start on their part of a project; which is a sure-fire way to ensure the team will start blaming each other, and even the leader for lack of performance or not doing their part.

  3. Feedback sensitivity: If the department head is resistant to constructive feedback on their performance, you face a leader who will keep running the operations of their team in a direction that may start to pull apart the threads of a functional business or organization. An example of this that I like to use, is Tug-of-War... YES! The game we played as kids... Every department head has an end of the rope... And if they are not pulling together, they will collapse, and their competitors will surely come to claim their share in the market. Instead, a better way to think of the ideal organization is how Siberian Husky Sled Dogs pull heavy loads across rough terrain. We need to pull together, we need to be united in the direction of the business, and all pull toward the vision of the business for a mutually beneficial future for all.

  4. The 'Status-Quo' Advocate (Change Resistance): Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying "Change is the only constant in life." The new trend in business practices is to create disruption via innovation. If you have a manager resistant to change, then you will continuously be blocked from progress while your competitors are finding ways to shortcut and steal your customers. I believe that "whatever can be automated, must be automated." Most routine tasks can be automated via robotics or software... So why hire staff to do routine tasks when they have brains of infinite power and capabilities...? Hire people who are not only advocates for change and progress... But catalysts of change.

The list goes on, but the theme is all the same. If the leaders in our organizations do not take the time to truly know themself, and how they affect the people around them; we may be hurting our future by not addressing that as a top-priority problem. As individuals need to pursue self-awareness, so do teams, and collective organizations. A strong relationship is only possible when people have reached peak maturity and acknowledge how they harm and do good in this world. Wishing everyone a chance to work on mindfulness and self-development. Best, Leo Khoury, ECRE Leaders Talk Host & Speaker.

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