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A Must Have Leadership Quality

Written by Chuck Olson

It was not my best moment. Far from it.

Back in the day, I joined a basketball league at the local gym. One night a week, guys from the community would lace up, stretch out, and team up for a weekly shot at fading glory. While I hate to admit it, during one of the games, in frustration, I slammed my fist against the wall behind the basket. To this day, I can still hear the embarrassing echo reverberate throughout the concrete box.

That less-than-shining-moment served as a wake-up call. I was forced to ask, “Where did THAT come from?!” And while the question was hard, the answer was even harder. Long story short, I was beginning the journey of understanding how my identity was tied into how I performed—inside or outside the gym.

Welcome to SELF-AWARENESS 101.

For a moment, I’d like to look at the intersecting point of self-awareness and leadership. Behavioral scientist and author Daniel Goleman argues that a leader’s effectiveness goes beyond raw intelligence or technical expertise. He contends (convincingly) that leading well is largely about one’s emotional intelligence—the ability to assess and monitor your emotions and the emotions of those around you.

In this construct, one essential slice of emotional intelligence is self-awareness.

Here’s my working definition of self-awareness: The capacity to have an accurate read on what is going on in my life internally and how that reality affects my world externally. It’s like connecting dots. For me, it was becoming aware of how much of my identity was wrapped up in my performance and how that inward struggle was compromising my ability to relate well with others. (Who wants to spend time with someone who feels like he has something to prove by being overly competitive?).

Self-awareness is the capacity to have an accurate read on what is going on in my life internally and how that reality affects my world externally.

Get the picture?

As leaders, the greater our self-awareness, the greater our potential of creating a positive work environment. Instead of repelling people, we attract them. Instead of offending people, we bless them. And instead of acting impulsively or carelessly out of unresolved issues in our lives, confusing and compounding the matter at hand, we bring a whole, healthy, and present self to the table, creating a moment that is ripe with possibilities and good outcomes.

Think about it. When you are working through a tough situation and doing so with a person who is self-aware, you know you are in a safe place. And you know that good things are about to happen because all energies and resources are being channeled to the issue on the table and won’t be derailed by someone’s unseen (and unreconciled) personal agenda.

So let me put the ball in your court with two questions: First, on a 10-point scale, how would you rate your self-awareness? And second, how do you want to get better?

To the second question, I propose this thought: If you want to be better, the inarguable starting block for deepening your self-awareness is a candid confession that you DON’T see yourself clearly.

We all have blind spots. We all need help to see what we cannot see.

We all need help to see what we cannot see.

If an academic degree was offered to tackle the topic of self-awareness, I think two would fall into the REQUIRED FOR GRADUATION category. Here’s how the college catalog might read:

  • Course #1 = Soul Work: In this class you will be reminded that nothing compares to the soul-searching work God can do in your life if you devote the attention to it. Scripture overflows with the deep and the loving and the exacting activity of the Holy Spirit. Any movement towards greater self-awareness must include extended times where we invite God to do His revealing work in our hearts.


  • Course #2 = The Buddy System: In this class you will be reminded that nothing compares to having a wise and caring friend (or circle of friends) to whom you have given uncompromising permission to speak words of truth—boldly and clearly—into your life. We all need someone who will take the time to review the game film of our lives, pointing out the often-overlooked (and at times, the chosen-to-ignore) subtleties of life and leadership.

So for the sake of those you lead, never audit a class on self-awareness. Sit in the front row. And be sure to take good notes.

But most of all, put those notes into practice.


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  • Paul says:

    Self awareness if something I need to grow in. I may be calling you for some coaching Chuck.

  • Mary S. says:

    Thank you Chuck. You always nail the target.

  • Sam says:

    It’s taken me a lifetime to learn that just as important as facts are people’s perceptions of the facts!
    so states Robert Ury, and i agree

  • Eric says:

    Something you share often in Rock Solid:
    “grant Him an open/standing invitation to do an irreversible work deep within you.”
    Thanks for being such a strong support and mentor in my life.

  • John says:

    Self awareness is key to leading others. I only wish I had learned this sooner in ministry!

  • Gerry says:

    How do you get someone to be more self-aware when they are totally clueless?
    Ongoing struggle with one of my team members.

  • Richard says:

    Always find your resources helpful and insightful. Thank you for the ministry and life of pastoring you are doing Chuck.

  • Nancy says:

    excellent write

  • Sam says:

    Identifying and learning from responses we make that are “out of the blue” is the first step to understanding self-awareness.

  • Rick D. says:

    One of the most dangerous things for a leader is the lack self-awareness, because to be self-aware means you know where you are weak and as a result you can address those weaknesses consciously.

    To be blind to your weaknesses puts your leadership and your organization at grave risk. While you may not believe it, to have a firm grip on where you are weak and openly admit that is an asset not a liability.

    And it shows you are qualified to lead.

  • Mike says:

    Finding those who will speak truth into our lives is key to self-awareness.

  • Carl says:

    Leaders need to be hearing from you who have run a strong race and are passing the baton of faith on to the next generation.
    Thank you!

  • Sam says:

    Keep on Chuck. Always find your articles helpful.

  • Jerry says:

    You hit the nail on the head…self-reflection is key to a leader’s success.

  • Bill says:

    A good quote from Stephen Covey:
    Self awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies.

  • Jim B. says:

    Many leadership problems come as a result of a lack of self-awareness.

  • Mark says:

    So agree! Taking an honest look at ourselves takes times of introspection as we make correction in our attitudes and actions.

  • Alan says:

    Proven leaders have a strong sense of self-awareness.
    Thanks for reminder Chuck!

  • Phil S. says:

    It is good to know that we can all improve in the area of self-awareness with the right tools.

  • Pam T. says:

    Always appreciate your insights Chuck.

  • Sean says:

    I wholeheartedly endorse what you are saying…self-awareness is a key factor for staff unity and camaraderie.

  • Randy G. says:

    Self-awareness is such a key topic that is not often discussed.
    Thank you for sharing from your experience.

  • Sean says:

    “leading well is largely about one’s emotional intelligence—the ability to assess and monitor your emotions and the emotions of those around you”
    This can be applied in business as well as the church.
    Thanks Chuck for sharing the journey of leadership you have been on.

  • Randel Horton says:

    Very liberating!
    Self-awareness and True-friendship,
    is like holding the golden key.
    Thank you Chuck,

  • Mark says:

    Appreciate this timely write. Will be sharing with out board for conversation this coming week and know we will all benefit from it.

  • DD says:

    Great article – thank you.
    I am teaching a 12-week leadership training course for 25 managers/directors/supervisors in our company. The last couple weeks we’ve been talking about emotional intelligence and blind spots. Yesterday I heard a speaker at an executive group I’m part of and the topic was…emotional intelligence. Then I get your email.
    I’m feeling challenged/compelled to do some work in this area – asking some people close to me (family/friends/professional) what it’s like being on the other end of me.
    Pray that God would accomplish His work in my life through this process.

  • Daniel H. says:

    LOVED the post today. Amazing stuff!

  • Ben says:

    How glad I am that I have improved in this area over the years.
    A great definition goes like this:
    Self Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.
    Thanks Chuck for your input in my life.

  • Harold says:

    Self awareness if the cornerstone to emotional intelligence

  • Jerry says:

    Self-awareness is the capacity to have an accurate read on what is going on in my life internally and how that reality affects my world externally.

    Such a succinct way to capture the essence of self awareness – the capacity to have an accurate read!

  • Derek says:

    This was a good one Chuck. Thank you!

  • David says:

    Appreciate these articles so much.
    Helpful and inspirational.

  • Gil G. says:

    Touchdown again Chuck!!!
    I think a big part of self-awareness is the fruit of the Spirit of “self control”

  • Jim K. says:

    Great post, Chuck.
    Super important, and super tough to consistently pull off.
    You model this so positively. Jim K.

  • Stu says:

    It is only as we see life through spiritual eyes that we can come to realize how much we depend on His filled, His leading, and His guidance.
    Thanks Chuck for these reminders.

  • Jenna says:

    I think a course on self-awareness would be so helpful for all the leaders who serve in the local church.

  • Henry says:

    So agree and as author Blackaby states so well:
    “Anyone who will take the time to enter into an intimate relationship with God can see God do extraordinary things through his or her life.”

  • Psail says:

    Thanks Chuck…always a good insight from one who has walked the walk.

  • Michael says:

    Always good to be reminded of how key self-awareness is, especially for pastoring well.
    Thanks Chuck!

  • Pam says:

    soul Work…that is a good way to put it as there is nothing simple about attending to our souls. It requires tremendous discipline to carve out the time required for this.

  • Jerry says:

    We all have blind spots in our life and leadership. And it is often in the context of a close circle of trusted comrades that we can begin to understand and confront them.

  • Paul says:

    Self-awareness in my book is one of the most important qualities of a leader. The good news is that it can be learned if one is willing to put in the work as you say Chuck.

  • Mark P. says:

    Always good reminders in your writes Chuck.

Chuck Olson

As founder and president of Lead With Your Life, Dr. Chuck Olson is passionate about inspiring, resourcing and equipping Kingdom leaders to lead from the inside out.  To lead, not with the external shell of positions, achievements or titles, but from an internal commitment to a deep, abiding and transparent relationship with Jesus. Serving as a pastor and leadership coach for over forty years, Chuck has a track record of building these truths deep into the lives of both ministry and marketplace leaders.

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