self awareness and leadership

“Self-awareness is the starting point of leadership,” Bill George, professor of leadership at Harvard Business School, former CEO of Medtronic

It’s apparent in today’s political climate that self-awareness and leadership don’t always go hand-in-hand.  We need leaders who embody self-awareness.  We need leaders who know themselves, can name their emotions, can identify their values, and make decisions that are based on wise discernment.  We need leaders who can see others and listen to others without taking things personally, judging, or reacting.  We need leaders who can hold strong to a vision with strong ethics in the face of distractions and pressures.

Self-awareness and leadership need to go hand-in-hand – for both the new and seasoned leader.  Luckily self-awareness is a skill that we can develop to more effectively lead ourselves, our teams, and our organizations.

As a somatic psychotherapist and professional development coach, I have intimately seen the transformative power of self-awareness when a leader deepens her ability to bring mindfulness to her moment-to-moment thoughts, emotions, sensations, and interactions with others.  I have seen what a powerful impact a leader can have when he leads with authenticity and integrity, deeply connected to his values and mission.

Self-awareness and Leadership equals positive impact, productivity, and synergy.


“Self-awareness seems to have become the latest management buzzword — and for good reason. Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we’re more-effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies.” – Tasha Eurich, Harvard Business Review

While it may be one of the latest management buzzwords, self-awareness has been the cornerstone of my work with clients for decades.  With an ongoing practice for deepening one’s self-awareness, a leader, parent, teacher, or any other professional and human being can choose their response in stressful situations as well as choose the course of her life and the authenticity and joy with which she lives it.  He can hold true to his values when others exert pressure or seek to distract him from his mission.  She can better listen, understand, and align with others to effectively negotiate or collaborate.

“Self-awareness is not only the starting point of leadership, it is the foundation for healthy relationships, true happiness, living a life of purpose, and leaving a legacy that makes our world a better place.   With self-awareness we make wise, informed decisions.” – Lisa McCrohan

Self-Awareness and Leadership: it’s both internal and external.


Self-awareness is both internal and external.  According to Tasha Eurich, internal self-awareness is “how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others. We’ve found that internal self-awareness is associated with higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness; it is negatively related to anxiety, stress, and depression…

External self-awareness means understanding how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above. Our research shows that people who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives. For leaders who see themselves as their employees do, their employees tend to have a better relationship with them, feel more satisfied with them, and see them as more effective in general.”

7 Self-awareness and Leadership Skills to Hone

Here are seven self-awareness skills that you can develop in order to lead yourself, your team, and your business with authenticity and integrity:

  1. Know how to get grounded when you are triggered. Learning to practice a Sacred Pause is something I teach every client – personal or professional.  No, it is not “Take a deep breath!”  Taking a Sacred Pause a few times a day enables you to get out of that low-grade “fight or flight” (that causes you to overreact and causes a lot of inflammation in your body) and move into “rest and digest” – resting your nervous system, resting your over-stimulated senses, and digesting your experiences so you can heal, learn, and take inspired action.   Not only does a Sacred Pause help you to respond instead of react, it helps you to stay clear and focused when a board meeting gets messy or a political debate gets emotional.  You make clearer and wiser decisions when you are grounded.

*Be guided through the Sacred Pause meditation (7 minutes of calm and connection)!


  1. Know what really matters to you. What’s your calling?  Why are you here?  What legacy do you want to leave – for your children, your team members, your organization, and our world?  These are big questions that deserve some space and time to “listen within” and discover your own answers to!  Much of my work with clients is providing the safe and structured space to wade through the myriad distractions and noises of everyday life in order to really “listen within.”  When we are living from this sacred place, we lead with an authentic sense of clarity, focus, and charisma.   THAT is inspiring.  And that’s when you have a bigger impact.   I love helping leaders reconnect to what truly matters to them and bring their life into balance.  Check out coaching.


  1. Know how you actually feel. Yes, I’m talking about emotions.  A coaching client recently asked me, “Lisa, being able to name emotions comes so easily for you.  But it is not something we as leaders and business owners know how to do, especially in meetings when tension is high, or an employee is sitting in your office and it’s a difficult conversation…You need to come and teach us the basics of relating to our emotions so we can help our teams do that, too!”  I often tell my clients, you have to feel it to heal it.  Yep, that means working with – not against – your emotions.  It means beginning to relate to your emotions rather than trying to conquer them, push them away, or get overtaken by them.

The Center for Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has an excellent list of feelings that can get you started in naming your emotions.  Much of the compassionate and present communication I teach clients comes from the NVC model.  It’s incredible!

  1. Know how to listen to your body. Yes, I know, this may sound strange to you.  But as a somatic (body-centered) psychotherapist, I had to bring this up!  While more clients are coming to me with an awareness of the fact that they have emotions, far fewer of us have awareness of our bodies.  Several years ago, some of my colleagues looked at me as if I was crazy when I talked about the role of our bodies in stress and trauma.  Today, talking about the body’s role in healing stress and trauma is commonplace.  How do you listen to your body?  Well, it’s an ongoing process.

The first practice I give people in coaching is this:  don’t override your body’s signals.

What does that mean?!  Your body sends you signals – that you need a break, to sleep, eat, work out, stretch, be safe, etc.  We often override these signals in the name of being more productive.  However, eventually the body wins.  We get sick, we burnout, or we have a breakdown.  When you learn to listen to and honor your body’s signals, you stay healthier.  And you build a relationship with your body where you trust your body.  This is important because your body is both your indicator and your pathway to wellbeing.


  1. Know how to talk to yourself in a way that actually leads to inspired action. All of us have a “Bully Within” who speaks harshly.  This “Bully Within” can often control the conversation and actually keep us from taking risks, getting unstuck, and taking actions that heal and help us to thrive.  The “Bully Within” can keep us from putting ourselves out there to ask for the promotion, advocate for the raise, or put up our hand to say, “I can do that!”  Begin to talk to yourself with kindness.  Often we think that to progress, we need to be tough on ourselves.  The opposite is true.  The kinder you are, the more you will embody self-confidence, self-regard, and an inner vibrancy that inspires others.  And, of course, the kinder you speak to yourself, the more effective you’ll be in understanding, listening to, and speaking to others.


  1. Know what your daily mindfulness practice is…and show up for it every day. Pick a mindfulness practice.  What’s mindfulness?  Basically – knowing what you are doing when you are doing it.  It’s living with intention and attention in the little moments of everyday life. Research suggests that there’s a direct correlation between leaders’ mindfulness and the well-being and performance of their people.  What does that mean?  The more a leader is present with their people, the better they will perform.  Where can you start?  Develop your own personalized mindfulness practice that is tailored for your life through professional coaching.  Check it out and sign up for a free consult.


  1. Emphasize self-awareness and leadership to future leaders – at work and home. Our children will be the next generation of leaders.  As for me, I want to raise our children to be leaders who are resilient, inclusive, and compassionate.  That’s why I am offering a online course that’s all about Regarding Our Children.  You can sign up to be the first to know more details.


Self-awareness and leadership need to go hand-in-hand.  Self-awareness is a skill all of us can hone and continue to hone throughout our lives.  These seven practices support us in deepening our capacity to see ourselves and one another more clearly.  They help us to model what a true leader is to not only our teams but the future generations of leaders.  And our world needs this kind of self-aware leader right now.



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