Become Aware of Your Leadership Style

By Eva Rykrsmith on July 27, 2010 29 Comments

Self-awareness is the first step to better leadership. If you don’t know what you don’t know, you cannot improve on your weaknesses. If you are unaware of your strengths, you won’t reach your potential. A lack of knowledge about who you are and how you operate can lead you to overemphasize your strengths, to the point where they become a weakness.

One problem is that as we get into positions of more responsibility or higher authority, we receive less and less feedback on our performance. We also become more comfortable—after all, we have been successful in the past. Compounding that, power has a strong effect on our behavior—making us more susceptible to being more self-centered, less empathetic, and more likely to not walk the talk.

So what can be done about this? First of all, don’t assume that you know yourself. We humans are dynamic, adapting to new situations, other people, and different environments quickly. Just because you were agreeable and timid twenty years ago, don’t assume that is the way people perceive you today.

Assess and re-assess often:

Ask specific questions

Most people are reluctant to give feedback. It takes tremendous courage, not to mention trust, to go into your boss’s office and provide your negative evaluation after an event. Who does that? But the conversation is easier when you ask for the feedback:

“Can you help me out? I think I am focusing too much on the details of the project and I fear I am neglecting to share the bigger vision with everyone. Have you noticed this—what do you think?… Can you watch for it over the next few weeks? I’ll check back.”

It’s much easier for your team to help you out in this way.

Track it

How easy is it to dismiss feedback that we don’t agree with? Unfortunately, we can do this so automatically that we forget that we received the negative information in the first place! Create a feedback journal and write it all down, immediately—whether you choose accept the feedback or not.  The bonus here is that you can read the positive feedback as a pick-me-up when you are down.

Keep it continuous

Most of us have opportunity to receive feedback annually, but why go that long without information that can help you succeed? Each month, work on a new goal and ask a learning partner for evidence of progress. Each month, ask your coworkers about things you need to do more of and things that you should stop doing. Phrase it like that so the feedback feels more helpful than hurtful.

How do you solicit feedback on your behavior?

This post originally appeared on the Intuit QuickBase Team Leadership Blog.

29 Responses to “Become Aware of Your Leadership Style”

  1. Caroline says on: 27 July 2010 at 11:58 am

    What a great way to supplement yearly feedback. I really enjoyed your idea about the “feedback journal” and writing down feedback– even if you chose not to accept it. Great post!!

  2. Mel says on: 28 July 2010 at 10:10 pm

    So I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve read your blog for awhile, but never commented… and now it’s just ridiculous because the head of the grad program in my department was putting together a list of IO resources on the web and wanted help, particularly with social media stuff and I sent him a big list and included your blog… the head of the grad program (and my advisor) actually sent this out to the SIOP listserv (and maybe SOHP/OHP lists) and the department… so oops… would’ve said hello and given you a heads up, but I thought this was a little list for the incoming grad students!

    (P.S. Sorry to comment here, but figured you’d see it this way though I realize it has nothing to do with this entry…)

  3. Eva Rykr says on: 29 July 2010 at 9:23 am

    Haha, that’s too funny – I also am a lurker on many blogs – thanks for the recommendation and especially thanks for taking the time to make a comment!

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  Copyright © 2010 Articles by Eva Rykrsmith | Art credit for square in upper right hand corner to Michael D. Edens