Self-awareness, a key first step in building up your emotional intelligence, is arguably one of the most important qualities in becoming a successful leader.

People use self-awareness to their advantage to assess a situation, get perspective, listen without judgment, process, and hold back from reacting head-on.

Yet self-awareness is frequently overlooked when filling executive roles, and often lacking from C-suites in general. In a Hay Group study of 17,000 individuals, only four percent of male and 19 percent of female executives were seen as self-aware leaders.

Why? Because becoming self-aware requires peace of mind, time, and focus on oneself -- all things that are low in stock for leaders. What's more, they don't take a hard look at their level of self-awareness like they do at sales reports and profit margins.

5 steps in boosting your self-awareness

Improving self-awareness is an emotional journey, but can be incredibly rewarding. I recently connected with Chuck Runyon, the passionate, self-aware, CEO of the multi-billion-dollar Self Esteem Brands, parent company to Anytime Fitness, Waxing the City, Basecamp Fitness, and The Bar Method, and co-author of company culture book Love Work, to get his firsthand insight on what leaders can do to become more self-aware.

"Just as you have to work out consistently to build muscles, you have to actively work on improving your leadership too. There are simple steps to take in becoming more self-aware, and they will make a world of difference in your interactions with colleagues, customers, and investors," said Runyon.

Here are Runyon's five lessons for entrepreneurs seeking to become better, more self-aware leaders.

1. Mindset matters.

Get in tune with your emotions. No matter how you're feeling, welcome those feelings. Question what's causing them, and then seek to understand them. By knowing your emotions, personality, habits, and values, you'll be better able to manage your stress, reactions, and overall decision-making. 

2. Seek trusted feedback.

All leaders need feedback. By gathering feedback from different sources, inside and outside of the office, you'll begin to discover behavior patterns that might impact your effectiveness. Being willing to see yourself through another person's eyes will give you invaluable insight on how your mannerisms, emotions, and communication style affect others and your business. 

3. Practice self-disclosure.

Good leaders are not afraid to be vulnerable with their employees.  Being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness.  It's an acknowledgment that nobody is perfect -- and your employees will respect and appreciate you for it.  Engage in storytelling, share personal information, be silly with your staff, and have one-on-one meetings to allow for more honest conversations.  Allowing staff to get to know you on a personal level affects the way they see you. You'll learn more about yourself and how others view you. 

4. Know your team and build them up.

Seventy-nine percent of employees quit due to a lack of appreciation from their leaders. Get in the weeds with them, celebrate their wins, and be there for them if they fail. Encourage and empower them to take risks in order to continue improving and advancing. Provide opportunities for professional development such as conferences, events, and courses for personal growth. Your business is only as strong as your people. 

5. Measure your growth.

Take a moment to reflect on where you started, where you are now, and how you got there. Consider journaling, meditation, or mentorship to allow for natural reflection. If you journal, go back and read where you were a year, three years, or five years ago. Seeing how much you've grown will encourage you to strive for more. By measuring your growth and becoming aware of your progress and accomplishments, you can set more realistic goals to achieve as you grow yourself and your business.