Why Self-Awareness is the basis for great Leadership

Why Self-Awareness is the basis for great Leadership

Many people wonder what makes leaders profoundly influencing and successful. Self-awareness is one essential trait that helps them make an impact, motivate others, and lead an organization toward success. This is an essential quality that can be found in every leader across the world. Allowing individuals to grow, adapt, and be honest in their workplace is key.

But what exactly does it mean to be self-aware?

In this article, we will look in detail to help you understand what self-awareness actually means, how it can be identified in others, its benefits, and how individuals can leverage this trait to be the best leader

What Is Self-Awareness? 

Simply put, self-awareness is defined as the ability to understand oneself in terms of one’s weaknesses and strengths. It also involves knowing and evaluating one’s personality traits, emotions, and preferences. However, self-awareness is more than just knowing oneself. It is an art and skill that is developed over time.

By practicing and mastering the art of self-awareness, individuals will be able to understand how they can leverage their skills to improve their performance and reach company and personal goals. Moreover, self-awareness will also allow them to develop interpersonal skills that enable them to influence others positively.

Moreover, self-awareness is a key element in emotional intelligence, which is something every leader needs to have. Emotional intelligence allows an individual to be in tune with their emotions. It allows them to understand, manage, and recognize their emotions and those of others. Typically to develop emotional intelligence, individuals must master the art of self-awareness first.

Self-awareness requires an individual to know their character, behavior, motives, and more. This requires deep contemplation and reflection. It also forces them to ask themselves important questions that can help them be effective leaders in an organization. Some of these questions include:

  • What do I do, and how do I act as a leader when things go south?
  • Do my personal goals align with my organization’s goals?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do I need to improve on to be a better leader?

Asking all of these questions will help an individual understand what self-awareness means and how it impacts their leadership. In their time of self-reflection, it is essential to ask oneself these questions as it will give them a better idea of who they are.

Why is Self Awareness Important in Leaders? 

Every leader in the world and in every organization has this trait that makes them influential and successful. This is, therefore, a universal quality found in every leader. The main reason for this is that self-awareness is the first step in developing emotional intelligence. Without emotional intelligence, individuals cannot be leaders since they would not be cognizant of their and other peoples’ emotions.

In his book, Acuity, acclaimed Dr. Van Zyl describes the top traits that help individuals to become effective leaders and competent managers. Self-awareness is one such trait that makes up one’s emotional intelligence. He describes how individuals can be more empathetic and caring towards others through self-awareness, hence developing a better rapport with employees and building trust.

Self-aware leaders are not afraid of recognizing where they fall short and working on them. In accepting their weaknesses, they became vulnerable and honest, encouraging others to do the same. This also builds trust in the leader. As every individual works on their shortcomings, the overall performance of the workforce can be enhanced. This is because there is a positive culture of personal growth formed in the workplace.

Self-aware leaders are instrumental in leading a company toward success. They can easily influence and motivate others while also knowing how they can leverage their strengths for the better. They align their strengths and personal goals with the objectives of the organization. 

Moreover, self-aware individuals know about their weaknesses and can determine ways to minimize their impact. Since they know everything about themselves, they can also make better-informed decisions. Through this, self-aware leaders can also set realistic goals for themselves and the company.

Essential Traits in Self-Aware Leaders 

To get a better understanding of who self-aware leaders are and how they are distinguishable from others, take a look at their essential characteristics. These traits are what make leaders more self-aware:


Dr. Van Zyl has dedicated an entire chapter of his book to humility since it is essential to being an effective leader. He states, “We must look at ourselves without believing our own P.R., while not thinking less of ourselves than we actually are.” Therefore, based on that, he defines humility as the ability to effectively recognize one’s worth.

When an individual knows their own worth, they would be more likely to accept their shortcomings, admit their mistakes, be more empathetic towards others, and make space for others. 


Humility and confidence go hand-in-hand since humility allows you to be more vulnerable. This is because understanding and accepting one’s weaknesses helps them be more confident in their abilities since they know what they are good at and what tasks they might need help with. 


An essential aspect of emotional intelligence is being more self-aware. Emotional intelligence refers to being empathetic towards others. Hence, a crucial part of self-awareness is empathy. The ability to put yourself in another’s position gives you a chance to develop a better team and understand what working style suits team members.


Since self-awareness allows individuals to recognize their behavior, strengths, and weaknesses, self-aware individuals are also more likely to be adaptable in different situations. They can work well under pressure and conform to the needs of different environments, groups, and circumstances.

Good Communication Skills

Excellent communication is an essential aspect of every great leader, not just a self-aware one. However, if an individual wants to be more self-aware, they must hone their communication skills to communicate their views and opinions as well as that of others.

Drive to Improve

Since self-aware leaders are humble and know what their weaknesses are, they are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and remove their shortcomings. They will consistently seek feedback and determine how they can be better.

Even Dr. Van Zyl talks about the importance of honest feedback in creating self-aware individuals. In his book, he discusses how managers must give employees candid feedback based on thorough analysis and contemplation. He says this is the top way to improve and be more aware. In fact, Dr.Van Zyl believes that about 80% of organizational problems can be eliminated when managers provide honest feedback and guide employees on how to improve.

Self-awareness in leadership

Top Tips to Develop Self-Awareness and Use It to Be an Effective Leader in the Workplace 

Leaders who want to become more self-aware should certainly read Dr. Dionne Van Zyl’s acclaimed book, ‘Acuity,’ as it describes self-awareness and how it can be the most challenging aspect of being a leader. He states that constant feedback will allow individuals to understand their strengths and weaknesses. 

Additionally, Dr. Van Zyl talks about how a general gratitude attitude and taking the time to understand oneself can take one step closer to being more self-aware. He also talks about the importance of providing candid feedback that is full of honesty and criticism. This can help individuals be more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and work on improving themselves. 

As mentioned earlier, this is a sure way of being more self-aware. Therefore, if you want to be more self-aware, you should ask your managers and superiors for honest feedback on how you can improve. 

Besides this, here are the top tips one can adopt if one wants to be more self-aware:

Understand Yourself

Self-awareness requires an individual to undergo a deep understanding of who they are. Hence, you will need to take out time to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, analyze your standards of right and wrong, and recognize the triggers of different kinds of behavior. 

A good way to do this is through a self-assessment wherein you understand your leadership traits. Additionally, analyze what skills have benefited your organization so far and what areas you need to improve on.

Keep Reflecting

In his acclaimed book, Acuity, Dr. Van Zyl talks about how individuals should set aside at least an hour for themselves a day to reflect on themselves and contemplate different aspects of their lives. For example, he states that we should think about our goals and how they align with company objectives and reflect on the people in our team. Moreover, Dr. Van Zyl states in his book ‘Acuity’ that we should ask ourselves the following questions when reflecting on ourselves:

  • What are the major stressors for me in my life right now?
  • Which areas do I need to improve myself on?
  • Who can I speak to about the ongoing issues in my life?

Trust Your Guts

The most self-aware and effective leaders in the workplace consistently rely on their gut feeling or intuition to make decisions. This is by far the best way for individuals to be more self-aware of themselves. While this might require taking some risks, it will help them understand their behavior, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Most often, intuition is never wrong, which is why it is an excellent technique for improving one’s self-awareness.

Adopt the Aforementioned Traits of Self Aware Leaders

This guide has discussed in detail about the characteristics of effective leaders who are self-aware. For example, individuals should be more empathetic towards others, have the drive to improve, be more confident, be humble and adaptable, and have excellent communication skills. 

Therefore, individuals should adopt the aforementioned traits to be self-aware and effective leaders in an organization. To know more, read up about self-awareness and leadership in Dr. Dionne Van Zyl’s book, which is called, ‘Acuity.’

Self-Awareness Is Achievable By Anyone

Successful leaders take out the time to reflect on themselves, their team, and their emotions. They continually strive to improve, seek honest feedback, and work on their leadership skills to make an impact and help themselves and their organization grow.

This is certainly a vital trait to have in all leaders since it aids in personal and organizational growth and success. It gives individuals a tool to improve themselves and be much closer to their goals. When on a journey to master the skill of awareness, individuals will find that they are understanding themselves in ways they have never done before. It is a positive life change that will impact them professionally and personally. 

For these reasons, adopting self-awareness is a game changer when it comes to being the best leader.