10 Characteristics Of Self-Aware Leaders

The most influential leaders lead themselves well and model good leadership characteristics for others to follow.  Why? Because leadership is visual; it is a visual responsibility and a visual act. When people follow you as a leader, it is not what you say to them that makes you effective, it is what they see in you and what you do. Don’t we want to be dynamic leaders that add value to others and inspire others to be the best version of themselves as possible? Absolutely. Then we must learn to be emotionally intelligent. There are five components to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and social skill. The foundation of increasing your effectiveness as an emotionally intelligent leader starts with self-awareness.

“People do what people see.” – John Maxwell

10 Characteristics of Self-Aware Leaders:


  1. They know where they are headed and why. Establishing values, what we find most important either personally or organizationally, will help us to: determine our direction, define our vision, decide wisely and develop short-term and long-term goals that will guide our teams and therefore the organization to successfully achieving it’s mission. In this process, self-aware leaders connect the “why” behind where the organization is headed to how team members add value to the mission or vision. Why is that important? It creates “buy-in” from the team.
  1. They have the ability to assess themselves realistically. In order to do this well, we have to exude humility and willingness. Humility – to soften our hearts and accept God’s grace and guidance knowing that we aren’t perfect and we aren’t always right. Willingness – to learn, to change behaviors and to conquer those identified barriers that may be holding us back from unleashing our leadership potential. We must be able to acknowledge imperfections, accept our limitations, and confront insecurities to fall in alignment with God’s plan and fulfill His calling on our life.
  1. They can speak accurately and openly about the impact of their emotions on themselves, their performance, and other people. When we evaluate each of our thoughts, opinions, and behaviors, we start to realize how much our emotions drive our work ethic, focus, time management and priorities. Not to mention how we react to and impact others! We need to own our behavior, realizing the responsibility we have with each interaction – this includes verbal and non-verbal communication. Managing our emotions and relationships well with others starts with identifying why we feel the way we do and recognizing how we may be externalizing that to others.


  1. They are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful of others. It is so easy to get caught up in how we think people should behave, talk, think, feel, work etc. . . . we must know that our expectations or perceptions of others can very quickly blind us to see people for who they really are, and also what their strengths, needs and limitations may be. This blindness can lead to high turnover, complacency and lack of motivation within a team. It is good to have expectations of others, but we want to be realistic with what we expect from them and accurate with matching individual strengths to a position that will set them up for success. This intentionality will produce individuals that thrive, teams that perform well, and organizations that grow.
  1. They tend to have an appropriate, self-deprecating sense of humor. It is so important to LAUGH . . .  at yourself. The ability to laugh at our mistakes actually shows confidence in our ability to grow and improve, accept our shortcomings and learn from those mistakes. Finding humor in our shortcomings makes us relatable. Do you want to follow someone that you can’t relate to? No. So laugh! We are never going to be perfect and do the right thing all of the time because, well, we are human. Adding extra pressure to be perfect only enters us in a rat race that is run by guilt, shame, criticism and defeat.
  1. They thirst for constructive criticism, seek it out and are comfortable talking about their own limitations. Self-aware folks are confident and courageous enough to look their fears, insecurities and weaknesses in the eye knowing that once those things are identified, real self-improvement can begin and leadership potential is unlocked. This leadership characteristic may require setting up an accountability partner, mentor and/or trust-worthy individuals to provide feedback and unbiased objectivity, as our perception of ourselves is not always accurate.
  1. They have a firm grasp of their capabilities and are less likely to set themselves up for failure. Identifying spiritual gifts, talents or strengths is critical to leading well. So is accepting our own limitations and weaknesses. Type As, this may mean you need to relinquish control. I know, it’s hard and scary. But if we place ourselves in positions that we should not be in because we are afraid to let go of control, we will fail and end up running our teams, or worse yet, the organization into the ground. Don’t be afraid to let someone else soar in an area you may not be strong in. Raise the ceiling of your organization, allow people to grow and give them positions they will excel in – even if that means moving yourself out of the way.
  1. They know when to ask for help, and when not to. There are times where we need to be resourceful and do things on our own. But, there are always times where we need to delegate or ask for help. Delegating appropriately will allow us to stay focused, lead from our strengths, operate where we are gifted and more importantly, create space for others to use their skills and talents. As leaders, don’t we value the growth and development of others and want to provide opportunities for our team? Of course we do! Let’s squash our pride, relinquish control and allow people to help us.
  1. Risks are calculated and leadership is sustainable. Sustainable leadership includes the ability to step outside of our current position, look down the road and see how what we do today, impacts where we end up tomorrow… and beyond. When we value the sustainability of our choices, we make better ones. Sometimes risk is required to meet our long-term goals and run towards this “big picture.” But, it is wise to prayerfully consider the gravity of the risk we are taking and all areas of impact.
  1. The decisions they make often align with their established values so their work and areas of investment energize them. When we choose jobs or positions based on what we hold as a priority in life, we will have a much happier outlook on our work and the positions we hold.


“People who assess themselves honestly – that is, self-aware people – are well suited to do the same for the organizations they run.” –Daniel Goleman

Go Digging!

You want to have a staff with energy and passion?

  • How are your energy levels?
  • How passionate are you?

You want others to value your leadership strategies and and invest in your mission?

  • How are you adding value to them?
  • How are you connecting their individual value to the mission?

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