Why self-awareness makes you a better leader Stellenbosch Business School Skip to main content
There are many guidelines and resources available to learn how to be an effective leader

There are many guidelines and resources available to learn how to be an effective leader, but what are the driving forces behind one’s leadership style? Leaders require an understanding of who they are and why they behave the way they do. They need to be able to evaluate their skills level, their areas of weakness and strength, and must be able to surface their value system and the methods they use to influence others.

In a study done by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, the importance of self-awareness as a critical trait for successful leaders is emphasised:


Victor Lipman, an executive coach and author of The Type B Manager, agrees. On Harvard Business Review​ he says that without self-awareness, you cannot understand your strengths and weakness, your “super powers” versus your “kryptonite”.

He says that it is self-awareness that allows the best business-builders to walk the tightrope of leadership: projecting conviction while simultaneously remaining humble enough to be open to new ideas and opposing opinions.


Kerry Sandison, learning process facilitator of the University of Stellenbosch Business School’s (USB) Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership Development​, says that self-awareness creates a GPS course that will illuminate your path and determine how you lead.


She says that journaling is a method to provide self insight and awareness, to uncover one’s behaviour, values, assumptions, aspirations, emotions and thoughts. With regular reflection over time one’s journal will expose contradictions, misconceptions, themes, patterns, surprises, perspectives and conflicts, and assist in turning each situation into a new learning experience.

Self-understanding offers an excellent foundation as leaders’ perceptions and behaviour sets the tone for the organisation’s culture. This deep personal understanding prepares a leader to respond effectively to any situation, build trust and confidence, and break the pattern of repeating the same mistakes year after year, as an individual and a team.

Leadership is the prime driver of a culture of performance and this requires the development of leaders through a journey of self-discovery and not only the acquisition of managerial competencies in areas such as finance, marketing and economics.

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