It’s easy to say that a leader’s style affects those who follow them. It’s also fairly obvious to point out that this isn’t always a positive thing; it can have a negative effect upon the workforce for a number of reasons, just as it can prove a positive influence.

What is important, and often left unconsidered, is that a leader may be oblivious to the way he or she affects those in their employment or management.

This might be due to a lack of perception of those around them, or worse still, they may have a serious deficiency in their self awareness.

How can you lead an organisation and a group of people if you are not self aware?

Imagine the scenario. You are the leader of a small team and you have taken a couple of tough calls before you have even arrived at work to start the day.

The first caused you to burn your toast, the second resulted in a momentary lapse of concentration while driving, and a near miss which wound you up further.

Then, you walk into the office without realising that the pent-up frustration is showing in your whole demeanour, while you wonder why people are trying to avoid you because they see what you don’t. You don’t realise that your frame of mind is clouding your judgement and you are making bad decisions, even if they are small ones.

When you imagine that from the outside, it’s easy to see, but sometimes that self-perception is lacking, and that’s when a leader loses control over how they are perceived externally and the effect they have on others.

Accurately and frankly assessing oneself can be one of the hardest things to do. Getting it right often depends upon trusted advisers and confidants, or even the insights of those who have trained in relevant areas. Often it involves taking on board things which are hard to hear, and finding ways to adapt.

However, it’s not always those who have that sneaking suspicion that they aren’t having as positive an effect on their surroundings as they would like, who can benefit from this. What if a natural humility holds an individual back, because they don’t realise the potential they have to positively affect those around them.

A serious self assessment could lead to an awakening not only for the individual, but for those around them. Sometimes it involves fixing things that person didn’t realise were broken, but it can go a long way to a better working environment and a more engaged and productive team.

What’s more, this can result in creating a more efficient and profitable business.

One of the key tools for raising self-awareness is a 360 degree feedback process. This involves not only an individual’s boss giving feedback, but also peers and those who report to them, all doing so anonymously. This creates an honest and open environment in which the individual can be informed about how others see them, creating a more heightened self awareness which can really benefit all concerned.

Sue Alderson is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development. www.azure-consulting.co.uk. 01924 385600. www.twitter.com/azureconsult

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