If you're a leadership geek like me, you probably know that for the better part of 50 years, thought leaders and scholars the world over have conducted mountains of research to answer the question: What are the characteristics of great leaders?

I'm going to posit that one cannot, and will not, be the "prototype" leader without one particular and crucial trait for success.

In fact, I'll go as far as saying that this is the one leadership trait every manager in charge of people, or any person aspiring to lead others, absolutely must add to their development in 2017.


The case for self-awareness.

In fact, Matt Tenney, author of Serve to be Great and The Mindfulness Edge, calls it the most important leadership skill there is! And it is a learned trait.

Self-awareness falls in one of the quadrants of emotional intelligence. And what most thought leaders (I'll add myself to that list) are saying about self-awareness is that in order to develop and practice it, it first helps to assess not only your own strengths but also your shortcomings and limitations--your blind spots, in other words.

What you don't know about yourself in, say, a business deal can sink it; what you don't know about yourself in managing conflict between employees or departments can lead to further conflict.

Ask yourself...

Instead of indulging in self-defeated, victim behaviors of "why me?" a self-aware person probes and asks questions like...

  • Why do the same issues keep coming up over and over in my business unit, marriage, or life?
  • Why do I respond to situations with anger, fear, optimism, or withdrawal?
  • What makes me think, act, and feel the way I do?
  • What makes me tick? What pushes my buttons?

But first, get over yourself!

Entitlement and hubris need not apply--it works against building up self-awareness. As you get introspective about some fault or shortcoming of yours, you need to handle the obstacle of denial.

Denial is a powerful detriment to development, and it can keep even the brightest and most successful people stuck. It can be the greatest hurdle that leaders face in becoming self-aware.

I think we're all pretty much guilty of that at some point or another in our careers. We all have egos that need to be stroked, fears and insecurities that need to be smoothed.

Final thoughts.

Many of us (perhaps you) don't realize that success may be just around the corner but first we need to humbly acknowledge the blind spots that need to be identified and overcome.

Once you clear denial and identify the blind spots, this will be one of the biggest wins of your business and career life. And your employees, peers, clients, and stakeholders will thank you for it.