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Performance feedback can come from many sources. Superiors provide performance reviews, colleagues present informal critiques, subordinates can rate their superiors, and customers and partners can also contribute to a 360-degree review of a leader. However, a critical source of feedback is from one’s self. People who evaluate themselves can provide greater insight into why they behave the way they do, as long as their self-evaluations are rooted in reality and not self-deception.

Accurate Self-Evaluation

No one in the circle of 360-degree feedback knows better about why one behaves as they do than the person under evaluation. The same traits are under consideration from everyone involved; character traits, strengths and weaknesses, motivations, desires, core values.[1] From each person’s perspective, the descriptions of these elements could be similar or look vastly different. While all perspectives add value to the evaluation process, a leader’s self-evaluation can provide insights no one else could. Accurate self-assessment by a leader is critical for their development as an effective leader.[2]

Correct Diagnosis

An accurate self-evaluation hinges on one’s ability to accurately see their personality and act to improve it when it’s called for. Accuracy is a critical component of self-awareness and, thus, self-evaluation. If a leader can correctly diagnose their capabilities, strengths, and shortfalls as a leader, they are more likely to take corrective action to improve the bad and supportive action to strengthen the good. A self-aware leader who can objectively analyze their performance will be more effective in the workplace.[3]

Self-diagnosis contributes to the input provided by other concerned parties. This feedback should be regular and ongoing, so leaders do not sit on past accomplishments. Evaluations must happen regularly to continuously monitor one’s beliefs, values, goals, and assumptions for changes. By observing and analyzing their behavior and the inputs of others over time, leaders can evaluate any modifications in their identities and adjust accordingly. Accurately observing and understanding oneself is a key step in making integrated decisions and establishing trustworthiness.[4]

Accurate Self-Evaluation is the Natural Course

Scholars have noted that the desire to accurately understand oneself is more prevalent than the need to deceive oneself into thinking all is well when it is not. Hazel Markus, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, who worked under grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health, contributed to this field starting in the 1970s. She stated that an understanding of one’s self is derived from past social interactions that one then uses to organize and guide their processing of information related to their experiences.[5] Leon Festinger, a professor of psychology who earned his doctorate in 1942, researched motivation, performance, and the effect of group standards and atmospheres on one’s level of aspiration. He explained that people are inclined to form accurate perceptions of themselves and their performance. They are less motivated to deceive themselves and develop inaccurate, although self-supporting assessments.[6] Markus, Festinger, and other researchers like them, perpetuated the notion that self-awareness was rooted in a deeper understanding of one’s self.

People Tend to Believe What They Want to Believe

Some scholars contradict what others have said about the human desire to accurately perceive themselves. Some believe that people are not very good at seeing themselves for what they truly are and objectively evaluate their behavior and the effects they have on others.[7] People tend to have an overinflated view of themselves, that they are immune to the follies that others are not. While weaker others may fall prey to ethical inconsistencies, their inner strength contributes to their immunity from bad decisions.[8]

Dangers of Inaccurate Self-Evaluation

Self-efficacy is a key to leader competence, so the dangers of inaccurate self-evaluation are evident. An inaccurate self-evaluation due to poor understanding of one’s attributes should stand in contrast to more accurate evaluations by superiors, peers, and subordinates. If there is an incongruent relationship between one’s self-evaluation and the assessments of others, then the correlation between the ability estimates of that leader and their performance records will be skewed.[9] A leader’s self-rating may suffer from an over-inflated assessment of their abilities, unreliability, and bias.[10] If a leader cannot accurately assess where they are as a leader, they will have difficulty setting goals that correspond to their capabilities. They may exert their efforts on tasks they are underqualified or overqualified for due to misdiagnosis of their contributions.[11]

A leader cannot be truly self-aware if they are not open-minded in their acceptance of feedback from others. Readily accepting criticism of one’s skills and abilities is not easy to do, especially when one’s ego is involved. Accurate feedback can only help a leader achieve self-awareness.


  • one’s accurate self-evaluation is the most important contributor to a 360-degree feedback system

  • regular feedback from many sources helps a leader to more accurately monitor their performance

  • the desire for accurate self-understanding is more the norm than is self-deception

[1] Taylor (2010) [2] Conger & Toegel (2002) [3] Dierdorff et al. (2019) [4] Schein & Schein (2017) [5] Markus (1977) [6] Festinger (1954) [7] Yammarino & Atwater (1997) [8] Bazerman & Tenbrunsel (2011) [9] Karpen (2018) [10] Yammarino & Atwater (1997) [11] Fleenor et al. (2010)

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1 Comment

Jun 19, 2021

I know a number of people who fall into the category of self-deception by not wanting or accepting criticism, constructive or otherwise, from anyone. I doubt these individuals are self-aware to any significant degree, based on their lack of appreciation for how their actions elicit reactions from others. RLM

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