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Self-aware leaders deliver better financial performance

Posted on July 15, 2019 · Posted in blog

Self-aware leaders with strong interpersonal skills deliver better financial performance

Ask anyone if they’re self-aware and they are likely to say, of course! Why is there such a gap between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us?

Is it possible to improve our self-awareness and why is it important that we do so?

Daniel Goleman, who made emotional intelligence a concept that we all regularly use, defined self-awareness as: 

“Knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions.” 

Being aware of your own emotions, and how they affect your behaviour, is crucial to effective interaction with others. And following from that is the related ability – so needed for functioning adults – to self-regulate, or practice self-control.

Reasons to increase self-awareness:

In 2019 the American Management Association (AMA) published the results of a study commissioned by Green Peak Partners, entitled: “What Predicts Executive Success?” The study was conducted by a research team at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The bottom line?

The researchers explored the leadership styles, backgrounds and track records of 72 senior executives across 31 companies (half of them with C-level or President titles) at public, venture-backed, and private-equity sponsored companies. They found that harsh, hard-driving, “results-at-all-costs” executives actually diminish the bottom line, while self-aware leaders with strong interpersonal skills deliver better financial performance.

This finding should have an impact on how the recruitment of executives is conducted. Poor interpersonal skills attached to a highly competent and skilled executive will yield a poor result. 

According to Tasha Eurich, an organisational psychologist and researcher working with Fortune 100 companies: 

Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we’re more effective leaders with more satisfied employees and more profitable companies.

And yet many high-powered executives that we meet socially (unfortunately, often men) express doubt about the importance of “soft skills” when they hear what we do for a living.

These executives are confident about their abilities and believe they have a high level of self-awareness. They also tend to rate themselves highly as great leaders.

So where is the disconnect? How come we do not appreciate self-awareness – the foundation of self-control and others’ awareness – as much as we should? Why do we assume we have this awareness? 

How self-aware are we?

Eurich explains that while most people think they are self-aware, their research – conducted over 5 years – showed that only 10 -15% of people were indeed self-aware!

Here is a self-awareness checklist:

  • How does the person receive critical feedback?
  • Are they able to show empathy to the situations of other people?
  • Do they fail to “read a room” and adapt their message to their audience appropriately?
  • Do they display a higher opinion of themselves (their contributions, their skills) than most others have of them?
  • Do they often hurt others without noticing it?
  • Do they take credit for successes but are quick to blame others (or circumstances) for failures?


What can we do to become more self-aware?

It is very difficult to change someone else’s self-awareness unless they are open to it, which is a bit of a catch-22 situation. Often those who need to develop better interpersonal skills (improving self-awareness being the starting point) are the very same people who avoid it. They won’t sign up for coaching sessions, or they will go along only to seem interested in developing, but they will not do the work required.

One of the ways in which you can approach this in the workplace is to conduct a 360 Degree Feedback assessment. Conducted responsibly, the results can help executives or team members to realise that there is a gap between self-awareness and how they are perceived. In our practice, we have seen executives who displayed poor self-awareness make huge strides towards improving it in an impressive, effective manner. This led to huge improvements in their interpersonal relationships too. But only once they bought into it. You can read more about 360 Degree Feedback here.

Other options include using assessments. At TML Coaching we prefer the Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) which is based on Relationship Awareness Theory. But there are other assessments that shed a light on our way of being, our values or our preferences.

There are many factors that make an organisation successful, and it would be over-simplification to nominate just one factor. But it is safe to say that self-awareness is the building block without which moving towards better people-management – and therefore building better, more resilient organisations, agile enough to live with today’s fast-paced ever-changing world – is not going to fully succeed.

Learn more about SDI here or get in touch with us on

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