The Power of Self-Awareness as the First Step to Greater Leadership

Dec 20, 2023 | First Person

By Janet Kendall White, founder and CEO of Berkshire Group, Inc. and president of NAWBO Cleveland

I recently had the privilege of facilitating both Emotional Intelligence and Strength Finder workshops for groups of leaders. Prior to each of those workshops, the participants had the opportunity to take assessments to learn more about themselves. I made the comment as I often do that as leaders, any time we can be “sliced and diced” we should take the opportunity because we will always walk away with some valuable information.

In general, people are not as self-aware as they think they are. Inevitably, when I do these workshops, many participants make comments about how much they learn about themselves, how helpful that is and, in many cases, how disappointed they are that they were not given the opportunity sooner.

Self-awareness is the first step toward emotional intelligence development and leadership development in general. So, why is it that for many leaders they are mid-career or later before they are given or encouraged to take assessments of all kinds that would give them valuable information and heighten their self-awareness?

“Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across situations.” —Dr. Travis Bradberry & Dr. Jean Greaves

It is difficult in the moment to analyze what the emotion is that you are experiencing as it might seem like it is one emotion when it is really something else once you reflect and dissect what happened.

One of the foundational books for many of us is/was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Very early in the book, there is a section titled “The Way We See the Problem Is the Problem.”  So true. In a later chapter, the author talks about “owning the gap” between stimulus and response. There is a difference between a response and a reaction. For the past couple of years, I have had a Post It on my monitor that says, “Own the gap.” Why? Because I know that my gap narrowed during the pandemic. Things that wouldn’t normally trigger me to react were. I had to step back and look at what was going on in my life that was causing me to react quicker and more intensely than the situation called for in some cases.

It takes understanding yourself, being self-aware and the ability to reflect on situations to understand the things that trigger certain emotions, what the emotion really is and then to be able to sever the cycle prior to the reaction so that you can respond more appropriately.

A straightforward process to use when reflecting is:

  • What was the triggering event?
  • What was the actual emotion at the root?
  • Your unhealthy response?
  • The truth, facts?
  • What’s the healthy response if you were to respond to a similar situation?

If you have not had the opportunity to “slice and dice” yourself recently, I encourage you to do so. For more information about various resources, please feel free to reach out to [email protected].

About the Author…

Janet Kendall White is the president of NAWBO Cleveland. She is founder and CEO of Berkshire Group, Inc., a WOSB, WBENC-certified, Ohio-based national consulting and training firm that focuses on strategic and leadership development. Over the past 20 years, Berkshire Group has developed a framework for organization change and organic growth, which have been successfully implemented in a broad range of settings, including manufacturing, information systems, biotech, human resources, financial services, health care and various types of non-profit institutions. She is an authorized partner and certified facilitator of DiSC®, The Five Behaviors™.


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