This week, I conducted a three-day “Leadership and Integrity Immersion” programme for Prolintas, one of Malaysia’s premier highway builders and operators.
The focus of my programme was to share with the 35 managers who attended the session on how vital self-awareness is in their quest for leadership growth.
In fact, it is crucial at work as well as in every aspect of life.
Having an understanding of yourself as a person and how you are able to relate to the world in which you live in makes you a much better leader.
This type of awareness ensures that you are cognisant to your own strengths and weaknesses, which then allows you to manage and leverage them at the workplace.
But most importantly, it helps you be mindful as you ply your trade.
Mindfulness is a very effective tool to help you flourish in all areas of your life and gives you the power to live to your fullest potential.
For many, work-life generates tremendous anxiety and people consequently allow themselves to be stressed. Mindfulness helps mitigate this. In fact, it is for this reason that quite a number of top global corporations, including Google, have started to teach mindfulness at the workplace.
Mindfulness is when you pay attention to the present moment and manage your reactions in an accepting and open-minded way. This is a reliable method for reducing stress, especially at work.
Dan Harris, journalist and news anchor, in his book “10 Percent Happier” argues that mindfulness in essence is when you can stop yourself from being tugged around by your own emotions.
Life often throws you curve-balls and your career is usually fraught with multiple complexities, so often, you will find that your focus and efficacy are adversely affected. This reduces your leadership capacity.
As you deal with the hassles of life and work, it is necessary to have the requisite self-awareness to know that you are going through an emotional rollercoaster, and to work at recalibrating yourself.
Mindfulness will help you get back focus and find your inner balance.
One of the primary feedback I received from the managers attending my programme this week was that their work stress was becoming all too consuming.
Many, for example, struggled with the perceived need to always be connected to work via constant email accessibility, intra-office chat groups as well as through the various internal tools that require their attention.
In reality, this eats into the time that you traditionally use as a break from your work-life.
Personal growth is founded on your ability to focus, have vision, be creative and be compassionate to the people around you. When you are being bombarded with information continuously, it can overwhelm you to the point of disconnection.
Mindfulness helps you improve your focus and connect with yourself.
When you regularly dart between one task and another due to many things competing for your attention, your work suffers terribly. But when you embrace the practice of mindfulness, you force yourself to come back to the present moment. This in turn, trains your mind to become focused again.
The goal of mindfulness is not to empty your mind.
Rather, it is to pay close attention to thoughts and emotions to see them more clearly. This ensures that you become more self-aware.
Daniel Goleman, internationally renowned psychologist and author, says elevated levels of self-awareness have been linked with personal development, healthy relationships and effective leadership.
In his bestselling book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Matters More than IQ”, he argues that “…emotional self-awareness is a leadership competency that shows up in model after model. These are the leaders attuned to their inner signals, recognising how their feelings affect them and their job performance”.
You can benefit from taking a closer look at your own thought patterns, emotions and behaviours.
In my work, I come in contact with many entrepreneurs.
Quite often, they are focused and driven to the point of only having tunnel-vision. But, the health of their organisation is predicated on how self-aware they are as the leader.
Even having great vision, some of these entrepreneurs breed toxic organisations.
Conversely, the most successful business owners and leaders I have worked with exhibit a phenomenal understanding of their own strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, and biases.
This makes them better equipped to improve upon themselves and their teams.
The American Management Association published a study recently establishing that a high self-awareness score is the strongest predictor of overall success. The primary reason for this is that executives who are aware of their weaknesses often hire subordinates who perform well in those areas they are lacking in.
The study shows that at work, leaders can better support the development of their teams and colleagues can help one another be more effective when they have such self-awareness.
The reality is that the more self-aware you are, the more you will gain from your work. I recommend you start with learning the techniques of mindfulness, right away.
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times