Leadership and Self-Awareness

May 19th, 2014

It's important to have self-awareness. This is true in general, but especially in leadership. If you aren't a self-aware leader, you at the least, aren't most fully who you can be. At the worst, you are dangerous to yourself and others because you may not be fully aware of how you respond to certain challenges and experiences.

Being self-aware is a life-long process. And to this end, I think its a great idea to every once and awhile reflect on and say who you are, and who you want to be, and are becoming. To help unpack this process, I will use myself as an example. There are countless categories one could use to reflect on oneself. For purposes of clarity, here are seven that I have found particularly helpful for myself, and now share with you.


What labels or identities do you have or could you claim? The ones you are and are aware of can be a good starting place for reflection on who you are and who you identify as. (They might also hint at some of your vocations.)

For example, in no particular order I could claim or identify as:  a person/human being, "Child of God," male, husband, son, brother, grandson, life-long learner, leader, citizen, neighbor, facilitator and consultant. If wanting to identify as someone with nationality or ethnicity I could add that I am an American, a Washingtonian at heart, a current Minnesotan, with Norwegian and German roots among others. I could keep going into particularities such as for "Child of God" being a Christian, Lutheran, and particularly an ELCA Lutheran. There are many others, depending on the degree of interest. But to be aware of these is helpful in order to begin to understand who you are, why you might value what you value, and do (or not do) what you do (or don't). In terms of vocation, I would add that by being a husband, for example, is a particular vocation and relationship which is important to acknowledge.

Passions in Work, Life, and Fun

What are your passions? What are you passionate about in your work, service, and leadership? What are you passionate about in life? What do you do for fun? I ask passion here, but it could be just as helpful to ponder what are your vocations?

For example, I have a passion for helping people and have discerned a "calling" towards service (which might be called "ministry") in the world. What this looks like can range from smiling at a perfect stranger, to helping someone in need, to leading or participating in the life of a congregation, to leading an organization or partnering with an organization or other people to collaborate and do some good in the world. I also am passionate about trying to help others see and understand that they are loved and have gifts. I am also a passionate sports fan (particularly a fan of the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Seahawks).


What are your strengths? I am not one who believes that there are definitive metrics that tell us totally who we are. But I do believe that there are some tools that can help us begin to unpack further who we are as long as we don't limit ourselves to a few words or outputs from quizzes and questionnaires, etc.

For example, according to the Strengths Finder I have the strength types of: Achiever, Responsibility, Strategic, Learner, Arranger and Competitive. If you know or are familiar with Strengths Finder, you know that they tell you what your five top strengths are. My top four have been consistent every time I have taken the assessment, but my #5 has switched between Arranger and Competitive, so I figure they are probably my top 6. (If desiring to connect this more directly to leadership I highly encourage you to look into and utilize the Achieving Styles Indicator developed by Jean Lipman-Blumen in conjunction with her Connective Leadership Institute.)


What kind of personality do you have?  I realize that there are always nuances and exceptions, but having a basic understanding of your personality can be helpful to be aware of how you react, energize, relax, and re-energize. This is of benefit in your work like, daily life, and relationships in general.

For example, according to assessments associated with Myers Briggs, I am: an equal introvert and extrovert (I/E); intuitive (N); thinking (T); and judging (J). Being aware of this makes me aware of how I act and interact with others.

The Person

What kind of a person are you?  You could answer this in a lot of ways.  Right now, I think the Enneagram might be the best tool at providing a snapshot answer of this.  This isn't a "you are a good or bad person" type thing, rather, a look at your deeper self and at perhaps what makes you tick.  It's an extremely helpful thing especially for knowing yourself and for knowing how you function the way you do with other people.

For example, according to the Enneagram, I am a "One with a Two-Wing."  This may mean that I am a "Social Reformer," or an "Advocate."  It also may mean that I am principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and a perfectionist.  With a 2-wing, this may indicate a sense of being generous and serving others.  It may also mean that a quest for ideals is met with compassion and empathy.


What kind of questions are you wrestling with currently?  What questions do you continue to wrestle with and wonder about?  What questions did you used to wonder about?  What kind of questions do you ask about yourself and others in order to grow and learn about yourself?

For example, individually and personally I wrestle with questions related to employment opportunities. These aren't about purpose, vision, and values.  Rather, just questions related to when and where.  I wonder about questions related to, how can I be a better me and a better spouse for my wife?  Or philosophically, how can we continue to make the world a better place for each other- for all of our neighbors?  Or theologically, what might be the signs around us for the in-breaking of the kingdom of God (if any)? These are just a few of the questions that I may ponder from time to time.

Personal Mission Statement

I saw an article about a personal mission statement, and felt inspired to include it.  So, if you were to think about who you are, and if you were asked to give a statement about yourself to describe who you are, what might it be?

For example, my personal mission statement might be:  "To love my neighbor as I love myself through accompanying, collaborating, leading, learning, and partnering."

  • Were these categories helpful for you? 
  • What others categories would you add or consider adding to help be self-aware?

This post originally appeared on Timothy's blog, timothysiburg.wordpress.com

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