The Sad Fact That Most Leaders Lack Self Awareness

Reading time: 4 minutes

Today’s podcast relates to our self-awareness as leaders… or should I say lack of it!

Tell me, have you ever sat in a meeting and wanted to bury your head in your hands because of the way someone was behaving… and that someone really ‘should’ have known better?

I mean they’re a leader after all!

Me too!

Here is the scary truth.

It’s uncomfortably common for some leaders to lack awareness about the ‘things’ they say and do and how this is affecting others.

So, let’s dive into the arena of self-awareness.

You’d think that all leaders or wannabe leaders would get the importance of being self-aware.

After all, leaders are tasked with influencing and engaging their teams, so it’s essential that they understand how their behaviours can and do impact other people.

As an example, a leader needs to decide whether positive or developmental feedback is called for when they want to encourage an underperforming member of the team.

Then there’s how do they communicate a sense of vision that employees buy into?

None of these things can happen unless leaders are able to predict how their actions will be perceived by others in their organisation.

The thing is though…… some leaders are blissfully unaware about how their actions are coming across and go on blindly doing the same thing leaving a trail of devastation behind them!

A bit like a scene out of Mr Bean!

Laughable though it’s, this scenario is embarrassingly common. The truth is many people have no idea how they’re being perceived by others.

So much so that the department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina decided to carryout an analysis of a number of different studies on the subject of our ability to assess our own abilities and this was published in Sage Journals.

This was a huge study involving more than 300,000 people who had taken various assessments.

I won’t go into all the data here and the correlation between what people thought their skills and abilities were and actual results were very different.

In fact, more than 67% adrift!


So, if we’re unaware what hope is there for us?

I would suggest plenty!

….and a shameless plug for Excel – improving personal leadership impact and capability is the backbone of what we have been doing for over 35 years.

The many benefits associated with being ‘self-aware’ are evidenced on balance sheets across the globe too… why is that? Well here are some straightforward answers for you.

  • You play to all your true strengths… not just what you think you are good at
  • You’ll think before you act…. sadly, missing in some organisations
  • Teams feel listened to and become more engaged

…And the list goes on.

So how do you become ‘more’ self-aware?

It starts with the f… word, one of my favourites… Feedback

Both asking for it and acting on it too.

Let me explain.

Seek Feedback.

Although it can be scary, asking a trusted colleague, your manager, friend or mentor for a true opinion of how you “show up” in various situations is a great way to get clear on who you are ‘being’.

It’s also a good idea to ask employees how you’re doing and how they perceive you in certain situations.

By gathering feedback from different sources, you might see some of your own behaviour patterns that you didn’t realise were there.

Here is the thing about being human that we have to our advantage… we’re driven by patterns and processes which can be changed.

Being willing to look at yourself through others’ eyes will help you glean invaluable insight into how your emotions and communication style impact others.

The next important step of course is to do something about the information you now have.

Then act on the feedback

There is zero point asking for feedback then deciding to ignore it and carry on how you always have done.

Feedback helps us grow and develop, provided we appreciate it as the gift it truly is.

How does this work in practice?

Let me give you an example from a recent training course I attended that one of our trainers was running in Amsterdam; at Excel we quality check all our work so it’s likely you will meet me or one of our account team at some point when you are a participant ?

One of the programmes we deliver is called Social Styles and it’s a fantastic programme that gives people real awareness about how their communication style and behavioural preference is impacting others and generally in a less than positive way.

The trainer I was with shared some great examples of classic communication behaviours that certain people exhibit …. totally unconsciously that then have an impact on the person at the receiving end.

…… often in not the best way either!

I made a note of them so let me read them out ….

The first one is this->

Is your lack of any personal interaction with peers and employees seen in a positive light, or is it interpreted in a way that labels you as hard and abrasive?

Then what about this one?

Do you criticise more often than you offer praise? I know I’ve been guilty of his one in the past!

Or how about this as an example of unconscious behaviour……

Does everyone avoid you in the office first thing because you need to warm up first?

Is this ringing any bells for you about communication patterns you might be running that aren’t delivering the results you want….?

Any improvements in your leadership capability starts with awareness.

This includes identifying what you’re doing right and what could be better and then working on improving in the areas which need a tweak.

So, listeners has this switched on any lights for you about the impact about how this might be affecting your results?

If you want to have a conversation about improving awareness in your team and how excel might be able to help then  please do get in touch, you can send us a quick email at or give us a bell on +44 1628 488 854


Rachel Hewitt-Hall

About Excel Communications

Excel Communications has a 30+ year history as a global leadership and communication skills company providing training and development to organisations across the globe, view our case studies here.

We have a team of expert trainers delivering programmes across four continents in multiple languages. Call us now on +44 (0) 1628 488 854.


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