A better sense of self drives better leadership

Self-interest impacts a leader’s ability to engage in healthy and productive strategic debates as they hold silo perspectives and opinions when they do not listen with the intention to hear and to understand.

As an advocate for self-awareness and ethical consciousness as the cornerstones for driving better decisions in the boardroom, I believe that business leaders need to listen inward and think in a more integrated way to drive better decisions for the business and society.

Listening to others is too often taken for granted because the focus is on the response to present a view rather than seeking to understand first. When we lack good listening skills, self-awareness is also not present. The concept of self-awareness, the benefit of ethical conscious leadership and guidance on how leaders can cultivate their self-awareness requires clarification.

What is self-awareness, where does it start and why is it important?

Self-awareness, quite simply, is an individual’s conscious knowledge of their thoughts, emotions and behaviour. It starts with an ability to listen inwards. When leaders do not listen to themselves first, they cannot listen to others with true intention to hear and to understand.

They hold silo perspectives and opinions that are driven by self-interest, which impacts their ability to engage in productive and healthy strategic debates. Executives need to be able to consider things from multiple perspectives. It increases their ability to think in a more integrated way, with a level of ethical consciousness that drives better decisions.

Listening inward, and to others is too often taken for granted because the focus is on the response to present a view rather than seeking to understand first. When we lack good listening skills, self-awareness is also not present.

How do ethically conscious leaders benefit the organisation?

Business leaders (at all levels) are responsible for pulling the organisation in new directions and spend a significant amount of their time making strategic and operational decisions that will have a long-lasting impact. Companies play an integral part in society, the very decisions they drive, affect society and vice versa. When leaders of the business understand themselves, they can listen to their managers and people better.

They become better examples of how to lead and become better at engaging in courageous

conversations and respectful debates that will lead to sound decisions, driven by ethics and integrity. At the core of King IV is the drive to achieve fundamental shifts in corporate behaviour: from short-term to a long-term focus, from financial capitalism to inclusive capitalism, from being singleminded to a focus on stakeholder management. If we are to shift corporate behaviour, we need a shift in the behaviour of those who drive the business.

How can individuals cultivate self-awareness?

First, there must be a willingness to look inward to examine one’s modus operandi. Cultivating self-awareness takes deliberate action and reflection of self; acknowledge the need to develop it.

Leaders can start by learning what makes them tick by considering the following:

  1.  Look inward: Question and explore the current ‘state awareness’ (thoughts and perspectives) and ‘profile awareness’ (patterns of behaviour).
  2. Be a Listener: Listen to hear instead of to respond. Be conscious of what is said and of
  3. Be Curious: When listening with intent, one becomes interested, and interest sparks curiosity in oneself and others.

  4. Be Courageous: It takes courage to explore oneself.

When integrating the leader’s self-awareness, with the leader’s areas of knowledge, skills and experience, it becomes a powerful insight into how leaders can have purposeful conversations as a starting point for driving good business.

 

Published in Business Brief – October/November 2018