Would you like to be an even better leader? Then be a better you.

It seems simple enough, but a big hurdle to any of us becoming better is a lack of self-knowledge or self-awareness.

“Self-knowledge,” said Baltasar Gracian, a Spanish Jesuit and philosopher, “is the beginning of self-improvement.” It’s also a part of better leadership.

“People who have the self-awareness of an intentional strong identity,” says Stedman Graham, “can lead themselves to overcome obstacles in their own lives so that they can lead others in their organization toward success.”

According to Manuel London in his book Leadership Development (as summarized by Dr. Ronald E. Riggio on the Psychology Today website), there are three psychological elements to self-awareness.

Self-insight: To better understand the needs and perspectives of the people she leads, a good leader needs to be aware of her typical behavior and how she is perceived by others. To gain this insight, says London, we should obtain feedback from our leaders, those we lead and our peers. Their observations can be used to help us focus on those areas we would like to improve.

Self-regulation: Good leaders possess impulse control. They avoid "knee-jerk" reactions and respond to situations in ways that are appropriate for the circumstances. Self-regulation allows us to take the actions that influence people to good outcomes both in the short and long term.

According to leadership expert Bruce Avolio, one of the ways to develop self-regulation is to conduct what I call “post-mortems,” where the leader assesses what just happened and why. Such post-action assessments can help us develop more deliberate and less impulsive responses.

Self-identity: This is a topic we’ve discussed previously. According to London, self-identity is about adhering to a personal set of values that guide our leadership behaviors. London says that self-identity is sharpened through a process of considering who we are relative to who we want to be as a leader. Striving to be that ideal leader will motivate further development, he says.

By taking the time to increase our self-knowledge through self-insight, self-regulation and self-identity, we increase our ability to lead ourselves and, in turn, more effectively lead others to good outcomes. 

Greg Wallace is the Chief Operating Officer for HRock Church in Pasadena, Calif. He loves teaching and helping others pursue their life’s passion. He is passionate about developing leaders, building organizations and helping people and groups thrive in the midst of change.