A recent study by Cornell University looked at leadership styles, backgrounds, and track records. The study found that, contrary to some long-held assumptions about leadership, “self-aware leaders with strong interpersonal skills deliver better financial performance”. It turns out that it pays to be a leader who is “good at working with individuals and teams”. And, it pays to have them on your team.

What is self-awareness? Can you assess your level of self-awareness? How can you leverage self-awareness to make a positive impact on your career? How do self-aware leaders benefit their organizations? Can you increase your self-awareness?

Now that there is data to back up the idea that self-awareness has a positive impact on the bottom line, businesses are buying into the benefits. For leaders who possess a high level of self-awareness, that’s great news. It’s not all bad news for leaders who need to develop or nurture their self-awareness. Keep reading to learn more about how self-awareness will shape careers and companies.

What Is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness has to do with how you perceive your own personality. Do you know your strengths and your weaknesses? Do you know the origins of your thoughts, values, motives, rituals, and feelings? Do you understand how they impact others and how others are likely to perceive them?

Self-awareness is the locus of control over the role you play within networks in your work and personal life.

Self-awareness is an essential element for self-improvement. It’s the foundation that you build on when you work to build a better you.

Self-awareness is complex and often complicated. But there are some key areas of self-awareness that help to impose some clarity.

Key Areas for Self-Awareness

To become more self-aware, you need to focus on improving your understanding of your personality traits, values, routines, feelings, and psychological motives. Together, these elements form the compounds that make up the complexity of every individual.


Your personality type is something that you can discover with a test. Individuals’ personalities are deeply ingrained and they rarely change as a result of training or study. However, knowing your personality type can be a great place to start on your journey to greater self-awareness.

Basic elements of your personality like the degree of introversion or extroversion, or your propensity for risk-taking, can help you understand yourself. It can help you develop insights into why you do the things you do and why you like the things you like.


Values are deeply held beliefs about what is important. While they are more likely to change than your personality, they typically change gradually and only in response to significant changes in your experience, wisdom, or priorities.

Getting in touch with your values can help you prioritize competing demands and maintain consistency in the face of conflicting interests.


Our habits and routines determine what we do in response to certain situations. We can cultivate new habits and develop new routines. It’s easy enough to make a change but it’s challenging to make that change permanent.

The habits we cultivate reflect our priorities and our level of commitment to those priorities.


One of the hardest areas to get control of is our emotions. Emotional states shift and change constantly. When they do, they influence our perceptions and impact our decisions.

Emotional self-awareness isn’t about controlling your emotions as much as it is about being aware of how your emotions are influencing your perceptions, decisions, and actions.

Psychological Motives

Abraham Maslow pointed out that every individual is motivated by the same hierarchy of emotional needs. While self-actualization is important to everyone, it is only the focus of our efforts when more basic needs like safety and belonging are satisfied.

The Impact of Emotional Intelligence

When you can leverage self-awareness to understand your strengths and weaknesses, you benefit from the ability to identify areas to focus on for skill development. Developing new skills that close existing skills gaps increase confidence, decreases stress, and ultimately promotes more intuitive decision-making. All of this helps to reduce levels of stress and increase levels of motivation.

How to Assess Self-Awareness

One thing that you need to understand is that few, if any of us, ever become fully self-aware. Still, improving self-awareness is worth the effort. To get the most from your efforts, it helps to start out with a clear understanding of the status quo.

There are many ways to assess your self-awareness.

They range from very informal to very formal.

One way to get in touch with yourself is through practicing mindfulness. This can be done by spending time and giving yourself the space to explore and understand your emotions. Keeping a journal can help you organize what you learn and track changes over time. Working on listening and empathy are also good ways to improve your self-awareness.

Practice Self-Awareness in Your Leadership Style

It helps to establish a baseline as you work toward a more self-aware leadership style. The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBPTI) is one popular assessment that can establish a baseline. It also helps to track the impact of your self-awareness work over time. Peter Drucker advocates a process called feedback analysis to monitor decisions over time.

It’s important to recognize that improvements in self-awareness aren’t something that can be accessed through books alone. At some point, you’ll need to ask others for their insights as a way to check your own perceptions.

The Australian nonprofit group ReachOut.com suggests the following steps to get feedback on your self-awareness.

  1. Assess your self-talk: Stand in front of a mirror and listen to your inner voice. Hear what you’re saying. You might even want to write down your thoughts.
  2. Take note of your perceptions: If you feel like someone is judging you or become aware of negative feelings, take the time to write down what you’re feeling and why you think you’re feeling this way.
  3. Get feelings out: When you identify feelings, deal with them in productive ways. This is better than waiting for them to pass or keeping them bottled up.

Self-Awareness is the First Step in the Modern Management Masterclass

There’s no better way to take advantage of the benefits that self-awareness can deliver for your career than by making a commitment to build a personal framework for masterful management.

Express Pros Training has developed an intensive year-long curriculum, combined with intensive 1-on-1 coaching. The first session uses self-assessment tools to lay a foundation of self-awareness. The rest of the program helps participants build a personal framework on top of that foundation.

If you’re ready to invest in yourself and take control of your career, then the Modern Management Masterclass is exactly what you need.