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Self Awareness and Leadership

Recently, I was driving home from a meeting in Los Angeles with a colleague, when she asked me (somewhat out of the blue) what I thought her strengths and weaknesses are.  Put on the spot, I considered her question and it struck me that perhaps one of her biggest strengths was the fact that she was asking me this question at all.

Lao Tzu once said: “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” The concept of self awareness – and its relationship to great leadership – was the crux of a recent seminar as part of LEAD San Diego’s 2012 IMPACT class.

“Leadership development is a lifelong journey,” said George Reed, University of San Diego professor, who presented to the LEAD cohort of 60 participants.

Reed offered the class tools to help assess their personality and change leadership style, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which measures psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions, and the Change Style Indicator, which measures preferred styles in approaching and dealing with change.  These are just a few of the tools offered to help leaders become more self aware, and while the results can be interesting, the real value of these tests is not in the results themselves, but in what you do with them.

Reed argues that results shouldn’t be used to describe your personality “type,” but rather results should be used to help guide your actions – even if that makes you uncomfortable.

“Like right-handedness or left-handedness, personality is hard wired … Leaders must work against their preferences all the time,” said Reed.

I walked away knowing that not only am I a “ISTJ” (preferences toward Introversion, Sensing, Thinking and Judging) on the Myers-Briggs scale, but also – and more importantly – I was more self aware and curious about others who I interact with both professionally and personality.  While every assessment and tool has its flaws, each can also provide good insight to help inspire improved leadership, which is a principle at the core of LEAD San Diego.


Updated 10/4.

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