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3 Key tools to becoming a more impactful and self-aware leader

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Let's play a self-awareness asessment game. On a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being low, what score would you give yourself on how self-aware are you as a leader?

I recently gave a talk at the University of South California to a select group of students immersed in a leadership program at the university.

In this article, let's discuss the 3 key tools to becoming a more impactful and self-aware leader, which I shared with these talented college students: be aware of your emotions, understand your human needs, manage your energy.

During the time I spent with the students, I covered a few of the topics in the first chapter of my #1 bestseller, Healing Leadership: How to Lead, Love, and Thrive in Business and Life, inculding "Be self-aware" as a leader.

The book's first section of Healing Leadership focuses on you, the leader, so that we can build a robust foundation from which to lead others--self-awareness, authenticity, purpose, and meaning, for example. And then from that place of feeling whole and worthy, you can then extend your leadership out into the world and toward the people you serve. And that's what we cover in section 2 of the book, titled How to Lead, Engage, and Influence Others. Finally, section 3 of Healing Leadership returns to you again to discuss Strategies for Personal Development.

Here is what I shared with my audience on the three components to becoming a self-aware leader.

Tool # 1: Be aware of your emotions.

The first thing about being a self-aware leader is being aware of your emotions.

Self-awareness is one of the four components of emotional intelligence (self-management, social-awareness, and relationship management are the other three). Self-awareness is about getting in touch with and tapping into your emotions.

The importance of this connection is that when you are aware of your emotions, you can then choose how you will respond and how you can have more constructive interaction with others and your environment while recognizing the emotion you are in.

What does this look like? It looks like this. If you're in a meeting and you're getting triggered by something someone said, and you're not self-aware, you could easily react and blurt out something that you may regret later.

Instead, when you have a critical mass of self-awareness, you check in with yourself. You realize this person is triggering me and I'm getting upset. Then you can in a couple of beats decide:

What will be a constructive way to address this without blowing up and without damaging my personal brand?

This information is beneficial to apply in at least two different ways, for yourself and as you watch others around you.

Let's play a game that has three levels.

Game Level 1: Notice how often you're reacting to what people are saying.

How often do you give yourself a couple of seconds to process what someone said or did before providing an answer? Check this out personally and professioinally.

For one week, begin to observe yourself more intentionally and to notice how professional and personal interactions go down. Specifically, note situations where there may be a conflict or a conversation doesn't go well.

If you discover during that week of being more mindful that you're quick to react, expressing your frustration, confusion, disspointment, etc., try this.

To become more responsive vs. reactive, give yourself a timeout.

When you feel triggered in a conversation or situation, give yourself a timeout--short moment taking a few breaths, for example, to tap into the emotion that's triggering you and process it.

Know that your emotions are precisely that--emotions. They don't have to take over you and drag you with them unless you hold on to them.

What's the antidote to holding on to the emotions and letting them take over?

Notice the emotions and get curious to release them. E.g., I wonder what's making me feel angry or (insert emotion here) about what Ginny said? This will happen faster and faster as you apply it in real life and practice it.

If you are with someone you trust and can, let them know, "I need a moment to process this." Staying quiet in those situations when you feel triggered is more productive that reacting and saying something you may regret later.

When we are highly self-aware, we can choose our response.

The clue as to whether you are experiecing a high level of self-awareness obout your emitions is in noticing if you are taking that short break to digest them and then choosing the best course of action forward.

Game level 2: Begin to notice how the leaders, colleagues, and friends around you are engaging and reacting vs. responding.

On this level of our game, watching their behaviors can serve as a source of learning as you have an opporutnity to role-model those who have a high level of self-awareness.

On the other hand, it's also significant to notice those who are reacting often to learn from them as you begin to imagine what demonstrating self-awareness in those moments wouldlook like you were them.

Tool # 2: Understand your human needs.

The second part of being a self-awre leader is undertanding your human needs.

We all have six univeral human needs, and there tends to be two of those which are our primary needs.

We need certainty: making sure that we know what's happening. We need food on the table, a roof over our heads.

We also need adventure or uncertainty. If everything was the same each day, we'd be bored to death.

We require significance. We all want to feel that we matter, that our work and live has meaning.

We crave love and connection. And if we can't find love, we will settle for connection. This is our need for belonging.

We all have a need for growth. Unless we're making some level of progress we feel stuck or stagnant.

And finally, on some level, we all have a need for contribution--to be of service, help others, make the world a bit better.

What is it that drives you every single day?

Of these six needs, typically two of them are your primary needs--even though we ALL have the six.

Pay attention to which of these six needs drive your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors with your family, friends, your team at work?

Like you, the members of your team also have these same six universal human needs--and two of them are also key drivers of their behaviors.

When you become a more self-aware leader and realize that you and your team are always looking to meet your needs, you are better prepared to have constructive conversations and interactions with them that speak to how your activities will address and fulfill their human needs.

This lense of self-awareness which accounts for considering others' human needs will take your leadership to a whole new level of effectiveness, trust, and impact, influencing yourself and others to work with a largers sense of purpose and meaning. That is priceless.

Game level 3: Assess your team's primary needs.

Notice what their behaviors and conversations say about their need for certainty, uncertainty, signficance, connection, growth and contribution.

To finish this level of our game, validate your findings with them. Share what you learned about the human needs and ask them which of these they belive are their primary needs. You may see how even having this open conversation with your team members will deepen the level of trust betwen you and them.

Tool # 3: Manage your energy.

The last topic that I discussed with the students at the University of South California as managing their energy to become more self-aware leaders.

Notice your level of energy. Know what brings your energy up and what takes you down.

It's not rare that you and I could be in the same situation, and on the one hand I can become completely drained by it, go down a rabbit hole of negative emotions, and you're perfectly fine. Unlike me, in this example, you may be able to be responsive while I can't. The only factor making that difference is how you are capable of managing your energy while I'm not able to manage mine.

Being a self-aware leader means that you're going to learn how to manage your own energetic vibration, your own emotional energetic state.

Key takeaways.

Using the tools and strategies we've shared here, you can assess where you find yourself today and choose what you'll like to do next--because it will serve you and support you in becoming a more effective and impactful leader--and support your well-being.

You can see how these three components, your emotions, human needs, and energy, are all interconnected. Everything is connected in my view.

This is one of the pathways we teach our leders at ExecutiveBound to deepen your level of self-awareness. However, these concepts, tools, and strategies are only a subset of what I discuss in section 1 of Healing Leadership .

You may agree that I believe being a self-aware leader is foundational in your life to create an internal GPS, lead your life, and contribute from that place.

At ExecutiveBound®, we are dedicated to accelerating your professional growth and developing senior leaders to create inclusive workplaces that promote business growth, high-performing teams, and personal well-being.

If you need support, you can reach us at to set up a complimentary strategy session and explore how our programs can help you and your leaders gain critical skills to reach your full leadership potential. If not now, when?

Live with purpose, live with joy!

Coach Ginny 💕


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Dr. Ginny A. Baro is an award-winning transformational speaker & leadership coach, career strategist, and #1 best-selling author of Healing Leadership and Fearless Women at Work. Ginny specializes in partnering with organizations and ERGs to develop leadership dream teams. And she supports individuals navigating a corporate hierarchy or transitioning into an entirely new phase of their career. She has successfully facilitated live and virtual leadership training and coaching programs for individuals and Fortune 500 companies with over 140,000 employees, and delivered keynotes impacting global audiences larger than 7,000. To learn more, visit ExecutiveBound.

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