For a number of years there has been – rightfully so – a charge to leadership to become more “self-aware.”
This trend has been a catalyst to enable leaders to have (by definition) more of a capacity for introspection and a clear understanding of one’s personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, emotions, biases, and philosophies.
While it’s widely agreed that self-awareness is a key component of leadership development, we should not neglect the other just as vital aspect of our leadership influence: a focus on being “others-aware.”
Leaders do not operate in a vacuum, and cannot lead without the collective efforts and vision of others. But to focus on one’s self exclusively will lead to a shallowness of understanding and influence that will be ineffective and wear you out.
Here are some reasons for and key benefits of being a leader who is “others-aware:”
- Understanding the concept that business is people. Google “business is people” and you’ll see the concept exposited from Richard Branson, Forbes magazine, Brian Tracy, Harvard Business Review, and others. This philosophy of success is based on meeting the needs of the organization's teams and individuals. When you realize the value of bringing others along for the journey, you start to become aware of their needs as both colleagues, business partners, and customers.
- Not focusing too much on self. By focusing solely on self, you will obsess about everything you are working on and exclude those around you. This isolationist mindset will cause you to detach from the big picture of what is going on around you. By focusing on others, you not only become more aware of their needs, but also realize more of what you need to work on yourself in the process.
- Realizing you are only one piece of the team. If a conductor of an orchestra stepped to the platform to perform without the ensemble, he or she would be ineffective and a failure. The conductor needs the entire orchestra to complement his abilities and bring harmony together. Likewise, as a leader you need your teams and cannot achieve the mission without them. Bringing their talents to the forefront and making them the star of the show delivers results that cannot be achieved in any one person’s power.
- Connecting with people. Being aware of others means to connect others with others, sometimes even without yourself, to allow a team to flourish, innovate, and syngergize. Leaders focused on self will get in the way of their people’s interactions. Instead, know what your team’s needs are from within itself and foster those working relationships from within to build connection and culture.
- Knowing the needs of the individual and the whole team. If as a leader you fall short of meeting your people’s basic needs, they will pull away, causing toxicity, less production, and even some sabotage of the organization in various levels. Employees whose needs are met will grow, give more of themselves, and know that their workplace cares for their personal and career lives.
- Strengthening and building current and subsequent leaders. If you think other people will follow you solely on your example, you are missing the point. Future leaders are great followers, but all followers follow only those that invest in them. If you want to develop better employees and future leaders, know what they need, commit and invest in building their skills to attain those abilities.
- Creating a deeper engagement. Sometimes leaders will focus on employee engagement, but from such an internal aspect they fail to grasp the concept and bring full committed engagement about. Engaged employees are only engaged so long as they feel they are being taken care of; they are totally committed when they know their best interests are being looked after. Drill down engagement to deeper roots by focusing on others and being aware of their needs at any given time.
If you are a leader who is being self-aware, then keep it up and keep growing. Yet remind yourself to be “others-aware" and engage in their futures. Bring as many people along the way to attaining the goals set before you. You’ll be amazed at how they will grow, and how you grow as well.
More From Paul LaRue
Paul LaRue is the creator of The UPwards Leader and Instigator for Lead Change Group. His background in senior leadership,. strategic planning, culture change, and people and organizational development gives him unique insight into the workings of successful organizations. Paul has given speeches and training sessions for many public and private entities and stresses the virtue of a culture that centers around core values and character in leadership.