How willing would you be to make an investment that offered modest initial returns and also triggered significant losses? What if I told you that if you make that investment, in time you could seize opportunity that multiplied your gains by 10 or 100 times?
Self-awareness is that leadership investment. Without it, leaders – really, anyone – is asking for trouble. Everyone has biases and blind spots. We are incomplete.
Initially, candid feedback stings. But it pays meaningful short term returns. It becomes possible to see and start to fix the things that get in others’ way. But when we get serious about knowing ourselves, we start to see what our clever minds conceal from us. We’re…,well, bad.
Not evil or corrupt, in most cases. But we are something that we wish we weren’t. And because we don’t want to be “that guy,” we resist knowing it. Call it shadow if you want to. From my experience, when we discover it, it stinks. Of course: it’s been buried and festering.
When you learn that you compulsively avoid conflict or use anger as a club, for example, you’re only confirming what others know. Except that now you can own it instead of it owning you. It begins to move from “who I am” to “how I am,” which is the first step toward taking some control over it.
There are situations in which “being bad” isn’t very bad. But for most of modern life and work, leaders need to know what’s hidden from their view. It has the potential to take over in moments of anxiety and stress. And those moments are certain to come. Really knowing and being prepared for how we ambush ourselves is a way toward freedom to lead.