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Self-Awareness: Re-Discovering a Lost Leadership Art

In healthcare, we're deeply familiar with its fast-paced and challenging environment. As a leader in the healthcare industry, our role extends beyond individual responsibilities and involves nurturing our teams because the way we care for them directly affects the quality of care they give. This ever-changing landscape of healthcare demands more than just competent leaders; it calls for truly exceptional ones. Among the many qualities of effective leadership, one stands out as particularly influential both for team dynamics and patient outcomes: self-awareness.

Self-awareness, in its essence, isn't merely a buzzword or a fleeting trend in leadership discourse; it is, indeed, a fundamental attribute that distinguishes good leaders from great ones. At its core, self-awareness involves a profound understanding of oneself - recognizing and embracing one's strengths while also being acutely aware of areas that need to be improved. It’s about having a clear grasp of our emotional responses and understanding how these emotions and subsequent behaviors impact those around us, how we impact the environment, and influence trust and respect.

Self-awareness is a vital element for leadership effectiveness and career advancement. Its absence can significantly hinder a person's ability to build trust, lead effectively, and achieve professional success. Without self-awareness, individuals may fail to understand how their actions impact others, remaining oblivious to ineffective responses from their team. True progress occurs when individuals can objectively assess situations, recognize their behavioral patterns, identify personal triggers, and adjust their actions to better manage relationships and foster a positive work environment. Let's delve into how certain leadership qualities can vary markedly between a self-aware leader and one who lacks this critical attribute.

Communication Skills:

  • Self-Aware Leaders: They prioritize clear and empathetic communication with their team, excelling in active listening and encouraging open information sharing.

  • Non-Self-Aware Leaders: Often lack awareness of how their words affect others, leading to confrontational or dismissive interactions.

Morale and Engagement:

  • Self-Aware Leaders: They foster an inclusive and supportive atmosphere, attentive to the unique needs of each team member, thereby enhancing team morale.

  • Non-Self-Aware Leaders: Might unintentionally make team members feel underappreciated and undervalued, leading to heightened stress and anxiety and diminishing trust within the team.

Feedback and Growth:

  • Self-Aware Leaders: They place high value on open feedback and continual self-improvement, including being receptive to feedback about their own actions and behaviors. These leaders cultivate a culture where constructive criticism is not only accepted but encouraged, both from and towards them.

  • Non-Self-Aware Leaders: Often perceive feedback as a threat to their authority, which can hinder innovation and open communication. Such an approach can lead team members to view feedback negatively, often resulting in a reluctance to accept or offer it.


  • Self-Aware Leaders: They arrive at balanced and informed decisions by carefully considering different viewpoints and managing their emotions effectively.

  • Non-Self-Aware Leaders: Tend to make hasty decisions without fully valuing team input, which can lead to suboptimal customer service and inefficient implementation strategies.

Workplace Environment:

  • Self-Aware Leaders: They actively nurture a positive, respectful, and collaborative workplace, focusing on minimizing stress and conflict.

  • Non-Self-Aware Leaders: May unintentionally create a negative work culture characterized by blame, fear, low job satisfaction, increased stress, burnout, and a high rate of staff turnover.

A self-aware leader possesses a deep understanding of their own core values, passions, goals, preferred work environment, habitual behaviors, responses to stress, and the effect they have on others. Conversely, individuals who often exhibit repeated negative behaviors, react defensively to feedback, regularly regret their decisions, struggle to empathize with others, find it hard to articulate their emotions, are prone to emotional outbursts, frequently encounter relationship tensions, or have difficulty admitting mistakes, likely struggle with low self-awareness.

Developing self-awareness can sometimes be a challenging process, as it often involves confronting personal vulnerabilities and insecurities. However, there are several effective ways to enhance self-awareness:

  • Seeking feedback (and listening to it) from colleagues, mentors, and supervisors.

  • Practicing regular reflection exercises by journaling, quiet contemplation, and examining thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

  • Emotional Intelligence practices of recognizing and understanding emotions as they occur and why.

  • Active listening to become more aware of personal biases and preconceptions.

  • Naming your values and principles.

  • Analyze goals, decisions, and the outcomes they led to.

  • Gain greater knowledge through reading or seeking assistance from a coach or mentor.

  • Reflect on current and past relationships, understand how your words or actions have impacted them, and identify patterns.

  • Identify your emotional triggers.

In conclusion, self-awareness is not just a skill but a leadership philosophy deeply rooted in a blend of introspection, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and various psychological and philosophical disciplines. It is both a personal journey and a reflection of broader cultural and societal influences. It empowers leaders to be more effective, empathetic, and adaptable, ultimately leading to better customer service and a more cohesive team environment. As healthcare continues to evolve, the leaders who will leave a lasting positive impact are those who are deeply self-aware.

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