Emotional intelligence has been hotly debated as a predictor of success for decades.Yet in leadership practice, there's no question: You need EQ to lead people successfully.

While there are various tenets of EQ that make leaders shine, one that every person in charge of people should develop is self-awareness (sometimes also referred to as self-knowledge or introspection).

What most thought leaders 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. Ask yourself...

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

The beauty of self-awareness is that the more you know about yourself, the better you are at adapting life changes that suit your needs.

The strengths of self-awareness.

Emotional intelligent people use self-awareness to their advantage to assess a situation, get perspective, listen without judgment, process, and hold back from reacting head on. At times, it means the decision to sit on your decision. By thinking over your situation rationally, without drama, you'll eventually arrive at other, more sane conclusions.

It's being able to look at the whole picture and both sides of an issue; it's having the ability to tap into someone else's feelings (as well as your own) to consider a different outcome; this overlaps into another key element of emotional intelligence: empathy. Daniel Goleman, a leader in the field of emotional intelligence research, once said:

If you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.

According to Goleman, self-awareness is the key cornerstone to emotional intelligence. In fact, a number of studies have proven self-awareness as a success factor. In one study undertaken by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University examining 72 executives with revenues from $50 million to $5 billion, it was found that "a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success."