You might picture someone who never lets his temper get out of control, no matter what problems he’s facing. Or you might think of someone who has the complete trust of her staff, listens to her team, is easy to talk to, and always makes careful, informed decisions.
If you’re self-aware, you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and your actions can affect the people around you. Being self-aware when you’re in a leadership position also means having a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and it means behaving with humility.
So, what can you do to improve your self-awareness?
- Keep a journal – Journals help you improve your self-awareness. If you spend just a few minutes each day writing down your thoughts, this can move you to a higher degree of self-awareness.
- Slow down – When you experience anger or other strong emotions, slow down to examine why. Remember, no matter what the situation, you can always choose how you react to it. (Our article on Managing Your Emotions at Work will help you understand what your emotions are telling you.)
Leaders who regulate themselves effectively rarely verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people, or compromise their values. Self-regulation is all about staying in control.
This element of emotional intelligence, according to Goleman, also covers a leader’s flexibility and commitment to personal accountability.
So, how can you improve your ability to self-regulate?
- Know your values – Do you have a clear idea of where you absolutely will not compromise? Do you know what values are most important to you? Spend some time examining your “code of ethics.” If you know what’s most important to you, then you probably won’t have to think twice when you face a moral or ethical decision – you’ll make the right choice.
- Hold yourself accountable – If you tend to blame others when something goes wrong, stop. Make a commitment to admit to your mistakes and to face the consequences, whatever they are. You’ll probably sleep better at night, and you’ll quickly earn the respect of those around you.
- Practice being calm – The next time you’re in a challenging situation, be very aware of how you act. Do you relieve your stress by shouting at someone else? Practice deep-breathing exercises to calm yourself. Also, try to write down all of the negative things you want to say, and then rip it up and throw it away. Expressing these emotions on paper (and not showing them to anyone!) is better than speaking them aloud to your team. What’s more, this helps you challenge your reactions to ensure that they’re fair!