Why Self-Awareness Is Crucial

In my day-to-day work, I help ambitious leaders build better companies. In practice, this often means helping them and their team to improve their management and strategy skills.

If you look at popular business and management literature, you’ll find that many focus on these two skills as well. Providing neat frameworks, models and processes, these books promise that mastering these two skills will make you a great leader.

And yet, I’m increasingly of the opinion that there’s another, more crucial skill. A skill that is not as easily captured in a copyrightable, paint-by-numbers management framework.

That skill is self-awareness.

The final filter

As a leader, the primary thing that you produce day-in-day-out is decisions. Your decisions determine the focus of your company, where your people spend their time and effort, and ultimately how successful your company is.

Given the incredible impact of your decisions, it stands to reason that you want to make the best decisions possible.

This is where a lot of the available management and strategy books come in. These books provide tried-and-tested frameworks and models, and processes for coming to the best possible decisions.

And yet, in striving to present the best and neatest possible frameworks for every possible facet of your company, they often fail to account for one simple fact: That all of this information eventually flows through one last filter.


The benefit of self-awareness

You are the final filter. Or more specifically, your mind.

Your mind, which is constantly at the mercy of a potent cocktail of physiological processes, emotions and cognitive biases, but also more personal pitfalls like blind spots, triggers and insecurities.

Now, even if you set up your company perfectly—you hire the best people, build the perfect structure, use the best frameworks and processes, facilitate near-perfect communication—every bit of the information flowing through that company eventually has to pass through your mind before it can be turned into a decision. The less aware you are of the processes in your mind, the more noise you will add to that information.

In other words, if your mind is flawed, even the best structures, plans, processes and strategies in the world still won’t prevent you from making flawed decisions.

If you really want to be able to make the best decisions and have a shot at the best outcomes, management and strategy skills won’t cut it. You’ll also have to get better at understanding and managing your mind and become more self-aware.

The more self-aware you are, the more you can soften the impact of subconscious processes on your thinking. This will benefit your behavior and decision making, which in the long run will lead to better outcomes for your business as well.

In my next essay we’ll look at some relatively low effort ways to start developing self-awareness.

Next steps

Here are some next steps you can take if this essay has piqued your interest: