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The 4 questions to ask yourself to become an all-star leader


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Have you heard a lot more people talking about “self-awareness” lately? If so, there’s a scientific reason why: When it comes to leadership, studies have shown knowing yourself inside and out can elevate your decision-making and relationship-building skills in addition to helping you become a better communicator. The only problem? Only 10 to 15 percent of people who think they’re self-aware are actually self-aware, data shows.

Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, researcher, and executive coach, did some digging into self-awareness, and after 10 investigations involving 5,000 participants, she distilled what you should be asking yourself to improve your own self-awareness and leadership skills in a Harvard Business Review article. And doesn’t “become a leader” sound like a grade-A New Year’s goal?

Check out the 4 questions to ask yourself to become an all-star leader.

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1. Am I both internally and externally self-aware?

According to Eurich , internal self-awareness represents “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.” And external self-awareness is all about understanding how others view you on those same factors.

While internal is associated with satisfaction from your career and relationships, more control, and greater happiness, external has more to do with being able to empathize with others and see things from their point of view, which helps to strengthen your relationships. And Eurich says it’s important, as a leader, to value both facets equally.

“Leaders must actively work on both seeing themselves clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see them,” Eurich wrote. “The highly self-aware people we interviewed were actively focused on balancing the scale.”

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2. Am I overconfident about my experience level?

Confidence is a great, but overconfidence about your self-knowledge is a whole other ball game in the workforce. Research showed that managers with more experience didn’t assess their leadership abilities as accurately as the less-experienced managers. Basically, there’s nothing wrong with seeing yourself as highly-experienced—and being proud of it!—as long as you’re still taking the time to question your beliefs without assuming you’re right.

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3. Is my power clouding my ability to be self-aware?

One study showed higher-level leaders overestimated their skills much more than lower-level leaders in everything from self-assessments and empathy to emotional self-awareness and trustworthiness. And according to the researchers, there are two reasons why.

“First, by virtue of their level, senior leaders simply have fewer people above them who can provide candid feedback,” Eurich wrote. “Second, the more power a leader wields, the less comfortable people will be to give them constructive feedback, for fear it will hurt their careers.”

So take feedback: It’s how the most successful leaders climb the corporate ladder.

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4. Am I using introspection correctly?

When you look deep into why you think, feel, and act a certain way, that’s introspection. Counterintuitively, Eurich contends those who introspect are often less self-aware, usually because they’re doing the exercise incorrectly as, “so much is trapped outside of our conscious awareness, we tend to invent answers that feel true but are often wrong,” she wrote.

But there is a way to productively take inventory of what’s going on within us (without ruminating needlessly): “We should ask what, not why. ‘What’ questions help us stay objective, future-focused, and empowered to act on our new insights,” she added.

New year, new self-aware you, right?

Speaking of leaders, here’s why Oprah was an inspo machine at the Golden Globe Awards. Or check out three reasons why she’s an OG of the wellness movement.

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