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There Is No Professional Development Without Self-Awareness

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

I have trained and coached 100s managers and leaders, and the overarching theme in their behaviour is; Being afraid to know who they are. Unfortunately, there is no professional development without self-awareness.

Self-awareness development is missing from almost every corporate program, and as a result, managers and leaders are walking around oblivious to who they are. They often confuse the mask they put on with their identity painting themselves a picture that has nothing to do with them.

Sometimes leaders are straight-up delusional about their identity, capability, leadership skill, likability, power or productivity. There is one thing they fear the most, failure but not in a literal sense.

To them, failure looks different. Failure to them is being confronted by their inadequacies. These confrontations can come from feedback from their teams, a debate over a project, a simple mistake on the Excel sheet or a spelling mistake in an email.

As I talk with leaders about the High Altitude Leadership program (see below), this theme has surfaced again. The question came up yesterday, "What if I cannot do it?" My answer was, "What would that mean to you?" There was no answer, but his face told me everything. It told me that it was not about "what if I cannot do it?" but more about "I am scared of what I am going to find about myself during this program."

Looking into the mirror is hard, especially for people with low confidence and self-esteem and those who get into certain positions based on whom they know rather than on qualifications or expertise.

Organisations happily ignore the danger and damage unqualified people can do, not necessarily to the organisation (of course, there will be no value added) but to the people around them. Incompetence combined with a lack of self-awareness and a high ego is a straight way to hell for the individuals around that leader.

If you put people like that through any program, you just waste your money. This combination is a barrier to development.

Once, a senior leader told me that he was a fantastic leader and he has been doing this for two decades bla bla bla... He went on a long monologue about his achievements, none was related to his people. After listening to him for half an hour, I asked, "Do you think people like to be led by you?" He was like yes, of course! Another long monologue about himself..... to which I replied, "I would not like to be led by you." That was the first time he looked me in the eyes.

Self-awareness development is the foundation of leadership development; a big chunk of this, is feedback from the team.

We cannot develop leaders in isolation from their teams. They must work together because the key measurement of any leader's quality is how their team feels about them.

Look into the mirror, it will be hard, but that's the only way. None of us was born with a user manual about ourselves. We need to learn us.

As for companies, you are wasting your training budget if you don't develop your leaders' self-awareness. It is not the lack of technical skills or expert knowledge that is ruining organisations. It is the lack of self-awareness protected by the ego and often undeserved title.

If you would like to learn about yourself as a leader, check out this specifically designed program and give me a shout. I cannot promise that it will be a comfortable journey but nothing in life that worth doing is comfortable.

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