Successful leadership requires self-awareness

If we had to name the most critical quality in a leader, our first thoughts might be attributes like strategic foresight, business acumen or technical expertise. While it might come as a surprise, self-awareness – not the so-called “hard skills” – is the number one predictor of leadership success according to research by Cornell and Green Peak Partners.  

Based on a longitudinal study of 72 top-tier business leaders in 31 global firms, the study found a direct connection between strong interpersonal skills and superior financial results. On the other hand, the executives analyzed with harsh “winner take all” styles ultimately diminished their firm’s financial performance and lagged behind in every single performance dimension. As the authors state, A key takeaway is that soft values drive hard results. […] The executives most likely to deliver good bottomline results are actually self-aware leaders who are especially good at working with individuals and in teams”.

Self-aware leaders are better prepared to lead others 

The journey to better self-awareness can take numerous pathways, but it always starts with a process of introspection says Prof. Alberto Ribera of IESE’s Managing People in Organization. “We could summarize the most important leadership as ‘know thyself.’ Executives who are self-aware are able to lead others precisely because they have done the work of reflecting on their unique strengths and weaknesses, as well as their aspirations in both the short and long term.” 

To this end, Prof. Ribera underlines the benefits of self-assessment evaluations to boost our self-understanding. These include personality assessments like the revised Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI-R), exercises to evaluate cognitive styles and preferences, and the 360-degree evaluation, which as its name implies, collects feedback from subordinates, colleagues and supervisors. “When done properly and received with humility and a willingness to grow, 360-degree evaluations can be extremely useful source of insight to spark personal and professional growth,” notes Prof. Ribera. 

Good leaders cultivate the growth of their teams   

While leadership starts with a deep sense of self-awareness, its ultimate success is defined by the ability to guide, mobilize and motivate others. These are all qualities that can be developed, says Prof. Ribera. “Without a doubt, some people possess intrinsic personality traits that can facilitate the path to leadership, but by and large, leaders are made, not born,” he explains. “Good leaders are adept at cultivating a climate of trust and strongly committed to the personal and professional growth of their teams,” explains Prof. Ribera.  

 

 If you would like to enhance your self-awareness and grow as a leader, learn more about IESE’s Developing Leadership Competencies (DLC) program. Delivered in a blended format, it will equip you with key insights to amplify your leadership potential and corporate impact.  

 

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