Louie and I were looking forward to a very long walk. As we exited the garage, I ran into a neighbor and we started chatting. Louie patiently waited for us to finish with his typical signals: He lowered his head and looked at the person interrupting our time together with an under the brow look and a quick whine. I usually ignore him.
But after a few minutes, I noticed he was alert to something. His body language signaled an issue that I had no clue about. He stood up straight, his ears perked up, and he intently stared in the direction across the street. His awareness is a great tool when we are walking in the dark because he gives me a heads up that someone is walking toward us.
Since I wasn’t paying attention to these visible signs, he began “pointing” by holding his paw up in the air in the direction he wanted me to look. This is a comical stance because as his legs are so short, they barely move when he points; but he did his best.
Louie has a keen sense of discernment and can immediately tell the difference between friend or foe. By his stance, I could clearly tell a foe was approaching. But other than my neighbor, there was no human or canine in sight. Still, he continued to stare and point. Finally, after carefully canvassing the entire community within eyesight, I saw what he was signaling to me. Over the hill of a neighbor’s yard, the tip of a dog’s head was visible with his eyes barely showing. This was not just any dog, but his new nemesis, Oliver.
We quickly scooted across the street and headed out on our long walk to avoid any further distractions. As we walked, I thought of Louie’s incredible awareness and how it ties into his keen sense of discernment. But there is one thing he is lacking in the awareness arena that is key to being an effective relational leader: Self-awareness. Louie has little to no self-awareness; but as leaders, we must develop this essential behavior.
What is self-awareness and why is it such an elusive leadership behavior? According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, it is an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality. To this definition, I would add “flaws and all!” Few leaders practice self-awareness because there is a mindset that says, “Don’t be too introspective; keep moving ahead; don’t be too concerned about what other’s think of you.”
There is some validity in that advice, but as in everything, we need to balance that information. Here are a few characteristics of relational leaders who are self-aware:
- They know themselves well.
- They are always seeking and welcome feedback. They are not quick to make excuses or justifications when honest feedback is given.
- They are aware of the traits that hold them back, and take action to address them.
- They are conscious of their weaknesses and look to hire people who perform well in the areas where they lack expertise.
- They are natural delegators.
- They read people well (Louie does this also. Maybe he is more self-aware than I give him credit for).
Self-awareness is key to our emotional health and the relational health of our team. It is actually freeing when you recognize the areas that are holding you back and release them so that others can step up to the plate and excel in their strengths.
Ask others to assist you in becoming more self-aware. The growth potential for not only you as a leader but for your team as well is astonishing and rewarding by way of a healthy culture and employee engagement.
For now, I am still impressed with Louie’s awareness of his environment. His self-awareness probably extends to his level of insecurities and fears only…but it’s a start!
Monday, March 20, 2017, is Louie’s 5th birthday. My granddaughters decided his birthday should always be on the first day of spring because he is so full of life! Send him an email to wish him a happy birthday firstname.lastname@example.org.
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