Knowing yourself is a critical part of good leadership. Some thoughtful leaders focus outwards, on everybody else. They focus on understanding what others want and need first, before looking at themselves.
That’s not to say that your team members are not important. Of course, knowing your people is also valuable, and makes the job of leadership easier.
An understanding of what makes your people tick can help you motivate them and enable you to work with them in a way that suits their natural style.
I’ve written about why it’s important to get to know your team members before. But in this post, let’s be more selfish.
Let’s focus on ourselves, and what makes us tick. And why it matters.
How Does Knowing Yourself Help You Lead More Effectively?
There are many ways in which knowing yourself can help you to lead your people more effectively.
But it’s not all about your people, it’s also about helping to set up an environment where you can bring your best work to the table.
Knowing Yourself Means You Can Tell People How You Like to Work
One of the primary benefits of understanding your own needs and preferences is that you can inform other people about how they should work with you.
This helps you to set boundaries. You won’t always be able to have it your own way, but without understanding what’s important to you, others will dictate the terms.
Here are a few examples where it can help to state your preferences:
- Preparation: If you feel comfortable being well-prepared, you might ask your people to set up briefing conversations with you before big events, presentations or deliverables.
- Timing: If you’re a “lark” (early riser), you might work better in the early morning. Or if you’re an “owl” (late to rise and sleep), you might prefer people don’t book anything too early. Yes, this is a real thing – not everyone’s energy levels and patterns are the same.
- Humour: If you prefer to keep things light-hearted, it’s good for others to know that. If you’re more on the serious side, that’s helpful for others to know too.
- Communication: Perhaps you’re a direct communicator, who likes to get to the point. Or maybe someone who likes a bit of small talk first. When people know how to speak to you to get the best results, you’ll feel better and so will they.
- Quality: Some people like to get the work out the door so it can be used quickly. Others thrive on having high standards. Knowing which you prefer will help your team give you what you need.
There are many situations where you might express a preference to your people. Knowing yourself helps you to do this, and prevents everyone from having to guess.
Knowing Yourself Means Understanding What Triggers You
Another reason for understanding yourself is to pinpoint where your pressure points are. These are the buttons that people or situations press that really get you fired up.
When you know yourself well, you can try to arrange your world so that either you avoid being triggered, or at least minimise the impact of your triggers.
I work with leaders and teams using the PRINT® Motivational Profile. In the PRINT report, people get a list of their common triggers. Most people find this extremely useful.
Some common triggers that I come across include people with negative attitudes, when your efforts are not appreciated or feeling micromanaged or overly criticised. Obviously the list of triggers will vary dramatically from person to person.
These are useful things to know, because you can set expectations with people to try to reduce the time you spend being triggered!
You could also use these to have a discussion with your own boss about how you work together, and how they can work with you to get the best results.
Armed with this knowledge, you have a powerful tool at your disposal to spend less time feeling frustrated and upset, and more time enjoying your team, and your leadership.
Knowing Yourself Means Understanding Your Strengths and Weaknesses
We all have preferences and needs which are useful to be aware of. But we also have strengths and weaknesses which we bring to the table.
Understanding your strengths is obviously very handy, because you can focus on trying to use them wherever possible.
If you’re a fantastic public speaker, you can volunteer to tell everyone about your team’s latest project at the next town hall meeting. Maybe you have a strong creative streak, so you thrive in situations where you can brainstorm ideas and come up with new initiatives.
Your weaknesses are equally valuable. Your weaknesses help you understand areas where you are most vulnerable and least comfortable.
They also provide excellent delegation opportunities, if you happen to have someone in your team who has a strength where you have a weakness!
One of the ways I like to understand strengths is through the Clifton’s Strengths assessment. It provides a comprehensive report which can be very insightful in helping you to understand your best qualities.
Learn More: How to Delegate Work to Improve Your Team.
Some Good Ways to Get to Know Yourself
There are lots of great ways to get to know yourself better, so you can apply the knowledge to your leadership.
Psychometric, personality or style assessments can be very useful for this, but they aren’t mandatory.
Some people have a tendency to stereotype and put people in boxes when they find out the results of an assessment. I’m not a fan of this.
You should use assessments as useful information – but they don’t completely define who you are.
My Favourite Assessment Tools
PRINT® is a Motivational Assessment tool, which helps you to understand what drives you at a deeper level. It also helps you to understand your triggers, your worst behaviours and what you bring to the table in your “best self”.
I’m certified in PRINT, so get in touch if you think this could be helpful for you.
Another good tool that I mentioned earlier is Clifton’s Strengths. You can take this assessment yourself on their website and it is reasonable priced.
The report you get from Clifton’s Strengths is quite detailed and outlines 34 key qualities, ranked from your strongest to weakest qualities.
Your most important ones will be your top five, so this is where you should focus your attention and use them as much as you can.
Other Ways of Knowing Yourself
Assessment tools are good, but there are other ways to better understand yourself. One of the simplest ways is simply to observe and take notice of your situation at work.
In what situations do you feel the most stressed?
What about the most motivated or energetic?
When have you done your very best work or leadership?
What situations drive you crazy?
When do you feel happiest?
When do you lack confidence?
An important aspect of this is to try to dig deep, to find what specifically is important in each of these situations. Identify the characteristics that make the difference, and you’ll start to see areas of strength and weakness.
For example, if you felt really motivated at a certain point in your career, you want to try to pinpoint the specific aspects that made the difference. Then you can try to replicate them, to get it happening more often.
Asking others is also a great method to try. Get other people to answer the questions above, about you.
You might be surprised at the answers, because other people may see you much differently than how you see yourself.
Coaching can also help you to understand more about yourself, and help you work through challenging situations. An outside perspective can be extremely useful, because we don’t have all the answers inside our own heads! (Get in touch if you would like to work with me)
Complete the Leadership Puzzle By Knowing Yourself Better
Understanding your team is a great way to bring out their best. When you can combine this with a deeper understanding of your own needs and preferences, you can become a much more well-rounded leader.
Leaders who are not conscious of their own needs are often those who find leadership difficult. They blunder through the workplace, inflicting stress and damage, and feeling bad about the interactions they have.
Don’t be one of those.
To quote Socrates, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”.
So let’s begin.
How do you develop a better understanding of yourself? Has it helped your leadership? Let me and all the other thoughtful leaders know in the comments below!