Leaders take many shapes of character. There are the strong and bold, the brave and courageous, and even sometimes there is a quiet, guiding leader. Every leader is unique. Each one has a different background, motives and ideals. And while I have experience in multiple leadership roles, the one question I continue to ask myself is this: what does it take to be a good leader?Oftentimes, leaders are assumed to be the strongest element in their companies. They may be the foundation that the company was built on, or they may be a seasoned executive and brought in for that particular expertise. Whatever the case may be, many of these leaders have a heightened sense of self-awareness.
Self-awareness is more than a concept of understanding one’s own emotions. I’ve heard this phrase at The Junto Institute about self-awareness in companies: “What got them to where they are may not get them to where they want to be.” It can be hard for a company to come to grips with the idea that their troubles might be due to their own leadership team.
When a leader recognizes that s/he may need help to guide their company along the right path, that self-awareness can be golden. In my experience, it is this self-awareness that allows leaders to be malleable to the tides of business. At The Junto Institute, we enable this path of self-awareness to unfold through various parts of the program.
For instance, in our Mentor Team Meetings, we have companies discuss issues that they are currently facing in their businesses. I recently observed the CEO of a company go through an exercise in self-awareness within a two-hour session and the result was remarkable. At the end of the session, the CEO acknowledged that he had a predetermined idea of what the outcomes of the meeting would be; he thought he knew what shared experiences the JuntoMentors would have and, in turn, that blocked his perspective of the topics. That self-awareness, to me, was magic. By opening his perspective, the CEO put himself in better position to lead.
And if he was limiting himself during a Junto session, when else might he do the same? And how likely is it that he notices and acknowledges it?
I always knew that self-awareness was a process in my personal and professional development but I don’t think I ever grasped the magnitude of how much it can impact a business. Every leader goes through road bumps. But in order to cope, manage, and overcome those obstacles, we must first have the self-awareness of what defines our success as leaders.
I still don’t know the complete answer to my question nor do I think I will ever fully solve the puzzle. What I do know is that every shade of leader I have met since working at Junto has had a strengthened sense of self-awareness, and I will choose to continue following that guiding light.