Daniel Goleman is widely credited with creating the term ‘emotional intelligence.’ His research led him to the conclusion that leaders come in many stripes and sizes, but one constant among effective leaders was this idea of emotional intelligence. According to Goleman, the components of emotional intelligence are: Self-Awareness; Self-Regulation; Motivation; Empathy; and Social Skill. This week we will look deeper at self-awareness, which means having an understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses and motivations. He writes:
People who have a high degree of self-awareness recognize how their feelings affect them, other people, and their job performance. Thus, a self-aware person who knows that tight deadlines bring out the worst in him plans his time carefully and gets his work done well in advance. Another person with high self-awareness will be able to work with a demanding client. She will understand the client’s impact on her moods and the deeper reasons for her frustration. “Their trivial demands take us away from the real work that needs to be done,” she might explain. And she will go one step further and turn her anger into something constructive.
Self-awareness extends to a person’s understanding of his or her values and goals. Someone who is highly self-aware knows where he is headed and why; so, for example, he will be able to be firm in turning down a job offer that is tempting financially but does not fit with his principles or long-term goals. A person who lacks self-awareness is apt to make decisions that bring on inner turmoil by treading on buried values. “The money looked good so I signed on,” someone might say two years into a job, “but the work means so little to me that I’m constantly bored.” The decisions of self-aware people mesh with their values; consequently, they often find work to be energizing.
(What Makes a Leader, Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, January 2004)
How does one improve one’s self-awareness? Reflective practices like meditation, mindfulness, or journaling help. Trusted friends, colleagues and family members who can hold up a mirror and help us see ourselves more clearly is another way to grow in self-awareness. Professional coaches and therapists can be invaluable ways to increase your self-awareness. Finally, assessment instruments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Enneagram, DISC and other surveys can help us to better understand ourselves.