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Self-Awareness: An Essential Tool for Effective Leadership

started writing this article, 37,000 ft above sea level,
midflight. While trying to contextualize self-awareness
as a leadership skill, I realized that it pretty much fol-
lows the same principle of the air-travel safety instructions
to “place your mask on before helping others.” Before you
can really help others, you should help yourself first. Self-
awareness is developing into an informed individual aware
of one’s strengths, weaknesses, personality, and preferences.
A leader has to constructively engage with others, draw out
the expertise within the team, and balance the team to func-
tion at an optimum level. Developing and maintaining this
balance is perhaps one of the most crucial challenges for a
leader. Being self-aware allows the leader to first identify
one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and therefore, be per-
ceptive to one’s response towards challenging situations. A
self-aware leader can appreciate the work and effort of team
members, value and respect diversity, and encourage the
different perspectives offered by the different personality
types, all of which ultimately enrich a project.
Thoughtful awareness of leaders allows them to be
tuned to the team dynamics and therefore have the vision to
maximize their team’s potential. For example, leaders who
are self-aware of their time management may recognize a
conflict situation that may arise between two team mem-
bers who have opposite work habits. One might be highly
productive when working last minute while the other may
have a more methodical and planned approach to meet-
ing goals. In such a scenario, the leader’s alertness and
timely responsiveness may motivate both team members to
negotiate agreeable work deliverables. Here, I outline a few
approaches one may start with to inculcate self-awareness.
Assess your own value: What can you contribute to the
workplace and how can you cultivate your own values?
Reward yourself for your achievements: Learn to re-
ward yourself for what you are able to achieve while being
cognizant of your own shortcomings. Be at peace with the
thought that it is okay to not have all the answers.
Nurture emotional intelligence: Allow yourself to delve
into your emotions and develop habits of articulating your
Understand your method of conflict resolution: Do you
resolve conflicts by dealing with them actively or with a
passive perspective?
Fit the jigsaw: Exercise mind mapping to see how each
piece in your team fits, i.e., how you can utilize the skill set
of the team members to maximize the productivity of your
Respond instead of react: Assess whether you react or
respond to situations. Reactions often carry a negative con-
notation while responses tend to be more balanced.
Seek support if you have too much awareness: Self-
awareness can lead to self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and
perfectionism, which may hinder work progress. In such
difficult situations, seek the support of peers and mentors
to help you refocus on your strengths.
Identify personality types: Many resources are avail-
able online like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Clifton
StrengthsFinder tool, which may help identify your own
personality and other personality types that you may work
well with or not.
While not exhaustive or authoritative in any way, my
goal is to initiate these conversations at our workplaces.
Irrespective of the career phases we may find ourselves in,
cultivating self-awareness empowers us to be better leaders,
team members, and collaborators.
A. Sengupta, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of
Arizona. This article is part of a series written for all Society
members by members of the Women in Science Committee.
To view the full-length articles, visit
women-in-science, and
Views reected are mine and do not represent those of the University of Arizona.
Women in Science
April 2018 CSA News 29
by Aditi Sengupta1
An Essential Tool for
Effective Leadership
Published online April 19, 2018
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