Self-awareness does more than improve leader-employee relations. According to research by Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm, there is a direct correlation between leaders’ self-awareness and company profitability.
The company analysed almost 7000 self-assessments from professionals at 486 publicly traded companies to identify the “blind spots” in individuals’ leadership characteristics. A blind spot is defined as a skill the professional counts among his or her strengths, when co-workers see that same skill as one of the professional’s weaknesses.
The analysis demonstrated that in poor-performing companies, on average professionals had 20 per cent more blind spots than those working at financially strong companies, and were 79 per cent more likely to have low overall self-awareness than those at firms with strong rates of return.
Poor self-awareness doesn’t just make leaders harder to work with, it also takes a direct blow at company profitability.
Joy Hazucha, global vice-president of the Korn Ferry Institute, commented, “Self-awareness can directly translate into better choices and results in more fulfilling careers. On the other hand, those with low self-awareness tend to scramble the messages they receive concerning improvement, interpreting them as a threat rather than an opportunity.”
Mindful leaders who cultivate the courage to take an honest look at themselves find that taking accountability can have far greater impact on their business than any strategy, initiative or marketing campaign.
The Key to Self-Awareness for Mindful Leaders
Mindfulness is a method for increasing habitual, constant awareness.
When we fail to take accountability and to self-reflect, or when we fail to be self-aware, we cause ourselves more stress and suffering, even despair. We believe there is no way out of our stress except for the external world to change, yet we also know deep down that we have no control over it.
In fact, this is one of our greatest sources of stress. It leaves us in a constant state of low-grade anxiety.
A client of mine, an HR director of a hospital and healthcare firm, shared with me how mindfulness and self-awareness helped him cut through the stress that had dominated his life, and really address the root of his suffering.
He said, “Before mindfulness training I struggled to accept the role I had played in bad situations. But now, when things go wrong, I’m really quite comfortable asking myself, ‘What could I have done differently?’ Mindfulness has given me a greater level of self-awareness, which enables me to more reflectively understand cause and effect, and to see my responsibility in all situations.”
Seeing our responsibility in a given situation might feel uncomfortable at first, but it actually serves as a gateway to freedom.
Rather than burying our mistakes and hurts, self-awareness allows us to honestly acknowledge them, and through doing so allows the stress they cause to be short-lived, to come and go.
The truth is that we find solutions and relief only as we turn inward, which is why self-awareness is so important for mindful leaders.
As the Dalai Lama said, “When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.”
We discover a profound strength and comfort in the truth that the answer to every problem lies within us in the present moment. And as we accept that truth, we become a more mindful leader.