2016 : were we self-aware?

As many commentators have pointed out, 2016 was seismic in its change. However I think it is also the year when we started to become self-aware.

It is easy to run along the rails of life without questioning our values or how those interact with those of others. Perhaps that is why there was expressed surprise over so many major events of the last 12 months. It’s a common failing. It also highlights something that we should all do more regularly.

When was the last time you truly reflected on who you are? Does your view map to those around you? What about those who rely on your leadership? Does your style work for or against you and where you want to be? Being self-aware takes effort but leads to better impact. In the US elections, the political establishment clearly hadn’t worked out the disconnection. With Brexit we see the consequences. These are a huge leap into the unknown for which nobody has any realistic plans. If we had been more self-aware to begin with the results may have been remarkably different.

Is this you?

If this can happen at the level of society or nation what about the local organisation or business? The impacts can be as unsettling if those running the show remain unaware of their natural behaviours and how these interact with others. Climbing the greasy pole is only the beginning. Staying at the top and doing so effectively is a real challenge. One that relies on knowing who you are and what that means. Leadership requires a high degree of self-awareness.

Experience shows that many leaders simply don’t bother to become self-aware. The results can be catastrophic both personally and for their organisation. Sometimes we continue to think things are as they always have been. Rising through the levels of leadership calls for constant revision of this view. Being a popular and well-respected member of the middle layers does not necessarily a good leader make.

What is changed?

All leadership roles are not the same either – so what is appropriate in one may not work in another. General Dwight Eisenhower was a classic example. A great military commander who didn’t realise that his natural capabilities did not suit the role of President of the United States. He could make rapid decisions based on summary evidence presented by his junior commanders. But he couldn’t facilitate decision-making in the political sphere.

The higher up the ladder you are, the more often you should take deliberate steps to remain self-aware. It is worth the investment of time and resource. And if you aspire to be a leader then make it a habit now so you are prepared.

So my recommendation for everyone looking for a New Year Resolution is to make 2017 the year when YOU are really self-aware. The results may astound you.