Recommendations for Creating Self-Aware Strategic Leaders
This post presents my three strategic-level recommendations to an organization to help with self-aware strategic leader development. Organizations play a role in helping their leaders be ethical. Leaders need accurate feedback to help them judge their capabilities and the support structure to encourage them to develop their leadership acumen.
Help Leaders Become Ethical People
If organizations want self-aware strategic leaders, they should start by encouraging them to be ethical people. Self-aware leaders are less susceptible to committing corrupt acts. They are authentic and confident in their ethicality and express this through engagement with followers.
Strategic leaders must be ethical people before they are asked to lead an organization through an ethical dilemma. But first, leaders must acknowledge that the difficulty they face has ethical components and ethical implications. If they fail to see the ethical elements of a decision or view certain aspects of the problem as merely practical and not ethical, they fail as leaders. Leaders should be encouraged to examine the sequence of events and influencers leading up to an ethical dilemma to help them deconstruct the crisis.
Leaders face demanding schedules. Stressors like hectic, pressure-filled calendars make it more difficult for executives to act ethically. Unethical leaders lead followers astray by manipulating them into believing that their interest in personal gain is actually for the good of others. To improve their ethical decision-making quality, leaders need access to honest feedback about their strengths and weaknesses.
Help Leaders Accurately Assess Themselves
Self-awareness better connects leaders to reality. Such leaders have a greater understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and know when to lead and when to seek others' support. When they must lead, self-aware leaders who are high in self-esteem and self-efficacy are more confident in their ability to face challenges. This self-confidence must be obtained aboveboard so they do not fall prey to overconfidence.
Multi-rater, 360-degree feedback programs are an excellent way to give leaders the information they need to become better leaders. Such programs must be clear of ambiguities and inconsistencies, so leaders have confidence in these feedback mechanisms. With 360-degree feedback, all parties with an interest in leadership growth contribute, including subordinates. This depth and breadth of information give the leader a more accurate and detailed picture of themselves. Leaders cannot be left alone to rely only on their self-evaluation, although an accurate self-evaluation is an extremely valuable feedback system component.
The greater the number and diversity of sources, the greater the accuracy of the totality of the feedback. All contributors have unique perspectives that will benefit the leader. Discrepancies between a leader’s understanding of their leadership attributes and the understanding of other contributors to the 360-degree program may point to a lack of self-awareness in the leader. These multiple inputs are an effective way of exposing leader’s blind spots and helping them improve as leaders.
Foster an Atmosphere of Trust Within the Organization
The key to a leader’s success is in the trusting relationships they build with followers, colleagues, superiors, and customers. Self-aware leaders build positive, constructive relationships with others. They better connect with their followers. These leaders understand their followers’ needs and wants and know how they can support them. Leaders can build healthy, productive relationships with followers when they honestly self-evaluate and show empathy for their colleagues.
The human default is to presume that others are being honest. Followers want to rely on their leaders and trust in their integrity. Therefore, leaders must display consistency in words and deeds to build trust with others in the organization. Great leaders understand that their actions affect the performance and well-being of others.
Within an organization, an atmosphere of trust will raise the level of performance across the board. If groups of leaders and followers in an organization are misoriented in the wrong direction, this could lead to a cycle of unethical behavior. On the other hand, an organization comprised of teams of leaders and followers who are self-aware will show greater team-level functioning and performance and are better able to avoid groupthink.