Becoming Self-aware

… a core concept in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109

Self-AwarenessConcept description

Self-awareness is defined by Merriam-Webster as knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character.

In his 2012 Harvard Business Review article, How Leaders Become Self-Aware, Anthony Tjan, says that his research finds that self-awareness is the “one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, manager, and leaders” and advises that the “best thing leaders can do to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making.” Tjan recommends:

Self-awareness is one of the principal topics found on self-improvement websites.

For example, Thorin Klosowski in Lifehacker (, accessed 21 February 2016) says that self-improvement is impossible without self-awareness, and writes:

Self-awareness (sometimes also referred to as self-knowledge or introspection) is about understanding your own needs, desires, failings, habits, and everything else that makes you tick. The more you know about yourself, the better you are at adapting life changes that suit your needs.

In another example, Pathway to Happiness (, accessed 21 February 2016) defines self-awareness as “having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions” and asserts that being self-aware “allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.” Pathway to Happiness says that self-awareness is a skill that can be learned, but not through books:

Think of learning to be mindful and self aware as learning to dance. When learning to dance we have to pay attention to how and where our feet move, our hands and body motion, what our partner is doing, music, beat, floor space, and other dancers. Dancing isn’t learned from books and Self Awareness isn’t either. A dancer needs awareness of their body movements. Self awareness is what you develop when you pay attention to your expressions of thought, emotions, and behavior.

The Australian nonprofit advisory service for youth, (at, accessed 21 February 2016) recommends three practices for improving self-awareness :

  • Assess your self-talk: Take a couple of minutes each day to just sit in silence and listen to what you’re thinking. One way of getting your inner voice going is to stand in front of a mirror and hear what you’re saying to yourself about how you look. It might even help to write down your thoughts so you can get a better idea of how positive or negative they are.
  • Use your senses: Next time you feel like someone is judging you or has made you feel bad about yourself, take a step back and write down why you think this. Ask yourself, could these actions have been interpreted differently? You might actually find that your interpretation was clouded by your own negative thoughts.
  • Get your feelings out: Look out for physical signs which might indicate how you’re feeling. By engaging with how you’re feeling, you can get a better insight into what you like, what makes you uncomfortable and what makes you angry.

Anthony K Tjan (2012), How Leaders Become Self-Aware, Harvard Business Review, 19 July 2012, at, accessed 21 February 2016.

Atlas topic and subject

Managing Oneself (core topic) in Leadership Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 21 February 2016.

Image: Viral Solutions, at, accessed 21February 2016.