Self-Awareness Drives Good Leadership

Last updated: Feb 18, 2020

Part 1 in a Series on Essentials of Modern Leadership

Benjamin Franklin, one of the more extraordinarily versatile and prolific figures of our great country, wrote this for the 1750 publication of his Poor Richard’s Almanack: “There are three Things extreamly hard: Steel, a Diamond, and to know one’s self.”

It’s undeniable that “to know one’s self” means different things to different people. I like to think self-awareness means honest, frequent assessment of the traits that define our character. I do know that more than 250 years after Franklin weighed in on knowing one’s self, it remains true that self-awareness is essential to good leadership.

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It’s About Knowing Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Let’s assume that you’ve attained a position of leadership through hard work, experience, and an elevated knowledge of your trade. As a result, you’re entrusted with the authority to positively motivate personnel and shape decisions.

Let’s further assume that you have a natural talent for organization but at heart are an introvert. Now let’s say self-awareness isn’t your strong suit. As a result, you’ve never realized you’re a natural when it comes to organization or that there’s a professional downside to you finding it a little intimidating to interact frequently with others.

If those final assumptions are fact, your path to management hasn’t included a conscientious analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, or actions.

You probably have a pretty good idea of where you excel and the qualities that make you a confident manager. You should know that failure to identify and face limitations can produce feelings of inadequacy or insecurity.

Bottom line: However awkward it may be, a comprehensive evaluation of strengths and weaknesses increases self-awareness and, ultimately, serves you well.

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Maximize Your Strengths; Minimize Your Weaknesses

Essentially, there are two ways to undertake a leadership role:

  • Concentrate on your strengths and maximize them so you can fulfill your managerial responsibilities.
  • Or address and correct any self-evident weaknesses that keep you from executing your tasks more effectively.

Self-Awareness Is a Study in Success

Benjamin Franklin was right. Self-knowledge isn’t an easy proposition. And it’s not just an esoteric concept spouted by philosophers; it’s a life-enriching pursuit.

Here’s my three-part takeaway on how Poor Richard’s Almanack is relevant to your career:

  • Achievements that are worthwhile will always require some hard work. (“No gains without pains,” Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1745)
  • When we acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, we can navigate our professional environment more effectively.
  • Our ability to relate to and connect with others is rooted in how we understand and value ourselves.

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Self-Awareness and Continuing Education Are Driving Forces

Regardless of style, good managers take their strengths and weaknesses into account when assessing their successes and failures, and continuing education is a vital part of maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses.

The University of South Florida knows that advancing your management skills means building on your strengths and addressing your weaknesses. The university’s professional development programs help push the self-awareness Franklin was so keen on.

Learn More

To learn more about USF’s dedication to interacting with professionals and advancing careers, explore the university’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education or contact us.