Self-Awareness and the Effective Leader


Businesses want their employees to work together. However, to achieve this it is really important to provide an opportunity to understand who they are as individuals, as well as how they behave as leaders and managers.

Self-Awareness is an essential part of effective leadership and management. Being self-aware doesn’t mean that you know everything nor get everything right every time. However, it allows you to adapt your leadership/management style to the needs of your employees, organisation and wider environment. 

Leaders are expected to to adapt in many areas to the needs of their team members but how easy can this be at times – especially under pressure?

Tune into our Lead & Manage webinar to discover tips for improving interactions with the styles to motivate, connect and enhance team cohesion. A great resource for companies that want to conduct leadership assessments.


Leadership and Self-Awareness

Poor decisions in leadership can result from a leader’s inability to notice the world around them and their impact on others. How a leader communicates, make decisions and collaborates has a tremendous effect on their ability to lead and influence others and their personal success. It is said that self-awareness in a leader is the absolute key to effective and successful leadership today. Without it, you might not know your impact on people or such things as your strengths and weaknesses or even when those strengths become overused. Being self-aware doesn’t mean that you know everything or get everything right all of the time, but it does mean that you know how you might impact others and your environment. So, not only are our leaders required to be self-aware but they’re also expected to adapt their style in many areas and to their team members’ needs. Adapting is not easy at times, especially under pressure. Later in the webinar, we’ll look at a few of these areas that these adjustments might need to be made in and some blind spots and tips for improving interactions with each style.

Why is Self-Awareness Important in Leadership

So, why is self-awareness so important for leadership? Well, it helps you become more effective because you know how well you are currently doing. It enables you to make the right decisions, know your strengths and challenges, and know when you’re potentially wrong because you

have certain blind spots towards yourself or others. There are some great leaders around us, and through technology and social media, we get to know and hear their stories quite frequently. Of course, many of their stories express messages of just how important awareness is in effective leadership, especially when knowing your blind spots in your style. This is where Extended DISC® can be so good and feeding back information to leaders about themselves or about how they operate.

Leaders With Self-Awareness

So a more prominent leader and my personal favourite is Richard Branson. I like his stories as he tends to be so honest with his natural blind spots he often writes about them these days, making his journey very interesting to follow. It’s hard not to like the guy, and of course, he’s pretty charismatic, effective and successful. Sir Richard Branson is a charismatic leader who will jump off a plane and have a work-in-progress meeting while parachuting. He’s not afraid to fail. He’s failed several times in his personal and business endeavours yet is also self-aware enough to know when he was wrong. I remember reading about him when he tried to introduce Virgin Cola in the mid-90s, and like a lot of new highly marketed products, there was some success early on, but eventually, it petered out and died a slow death. Branson often reflects on why it never took off, but in a nutshell, he attributes it to his personality and some of the traits that might naturally fit with the challenge. Such as to win at all costs, the big vision of what can be, the need to control everything, and not weighing up with risk properly, to name a few. I bet you can guess his DISC behavioural style. This type of determination would naturally come with some blind spots. His were about his wins, personal ambition and new ventures and if they suited the core values and ethos of the Virgin company. In this case, his push for personal success overrode the fit for the company. He admits he was blind to it at the time. He says we realise that I failed to adhere to my own rules. Virgin specialises and shaking up industries where consumers are getting a raw deal, but there was no great dissatisfaction with coca-cola Pepsi or other soft drink brands at the time, so the business was a financial failure. We were so intent on repeating our model that led to previous successes that we didn’t notice the problems with our idea, but we always learn from our failures which makes us better at being self-aware. So after this expensive failure turned into a lesson learned, he understood his blind spots as a leader better.

Leaders Without Self-Awareness

Leaders that lack self-awareness are typically not aware of their blind spots. So how many of us are aware of our blind spots? Blind spots can come in many forms and various areas and are often more emphasised when under pressure. We are so often aware of our strengths that they can be a downfall in many areas when using and overusing our strengths. Let’s look at might what areas might turn into overuse to the point that they hinder our effectiveness. These blind spots can create enormous frustrations for others around us and hold us back as leaders without self-awareness. 

D Styles Overuse Areas

Traits of a high D personality are: 

  • strong-willed
  • decisive 
  • independent 
  • tough
  • competitive

When they overuse them, they can soon become and look aggressive, blunt, and self-centred. They can exceed authority and become quite overbearing, which can frustrate people. Some of the frustrations can be from people feeling pressured, but the D personality would come back and say, we must start right away. 

I Styles Overuse Areas

Typical traits of a high I personality type are: 

  • enthusiastic 
  • inspiring
  • energetic 
  • persuasive social 

However, when they overuse those traits, they can look flamboyant, frantic, hasty, careless, and indiscreet. They can lose the sense of time and their focus. It frustrates others, and we often hear them say, ‘just stop talking all the time!’ The I personality feels as though they are getting to know people and experiencing positivity is very important to the team. 

S Styles Overuse Areas

The traits of High S personality types include:

  • trustworthy
  • steady 
  • calm 
  • careful 
  • patient 
  • modest

However, if overusing these traits, they can become very resistant to new ideas and very stubborn. They don’t express opinions. They don’t express opinions a lot anyway, but they can become even more held back and are not proactive in seeking change. This can cause frustrations for other people, and they say ‘don’t always resist everything’, but the S style personality is thinking that holding on to their basic values will help the team on the right course.

C Style Overuse Areas

Attributes of a high C personality include:

  • disciplined 
  • precise
  • formal 
  • follow rules 
  • logical
  • careful
  • reserved

However, when overusing these traits can become withdrawn. They can get stuck in detail and can’t move on. They express their opinions even less and become even more risk-averse. They can become highly apprehensive. This causes frustration for others who see them as overly theoretical, although the C personality thinks they must understand all the issues thoroughly. 

So, the typical traits of the styles can become overused and cause a lot of frustration for those around them. Effective leaders are aware of their strengths but are careful not to overuse them. They are very mindful of their development areas, and while they may not choose to develop them, they certainly do not deny or ignore them. Part of becoming self-aware also means finding out others perspectives of us, our blind spots. We might know some of these blind spots ourselves, but we can be utterly oblivious to other areas that might be holding us back as leaders. 

Leadership Self-Awareness Tools

How can you identify areas that might be holding you back and affecting your leadership and self-awareness? 360 feedback assessments are excellent for just this sort of thing. The 360 feedback tool can measure the skills, behaviours and competencies of a person. It is an entirely separate tool to the behavioural assessment and can be used in many areas, such as:

  • performance appraisals 
  • succession planning 
  • team development
  • increased self-awareness
  • identification of problem areas
  • improving performance
  • professional development
  • comparing feedback year to year and tracking performance

360 feedback is excellent for looking at and analysing leadership. The tool is often used in a leadership development program. The 360 feedback assessment is designed to measure the opinion of a group of people surrounding the individual. In this case, let’s assume it to be a leader. The business or HR consultant would gather feedback through the tool from the leader and anonymous results from peers, direct reports and managers. When this type of feedback is delivered well can be a good reality check for many. Self-perception versus others perceptions of us is critical to take on board. 

A 360 report can highlight any deviation between how the leader sees themselves and the perception of others around them. In these reports, the potential blind spots are marked as traffic lights. For example, red shows the most disparity, then yellow and green to indicate where perception is closely aligned. The red lights are often the ones that can cause a lot of conflict or miscommunication as they are the perceptions most out of alignment between the leaders’ self-assessment and other’s perceptions of them. The traffic lights can be either positive or negative. For example, when the leader is too critical of themselves or when the leader has been overly self-assured. Finding out about potential blind spots through others’ perceptions, particularly in a leadership role, is essential if you want to build on awareness. The open 360 feedback report and any of the DISC behavioural assessments can help to highlight these potential areas. Even better, if you like to use them together, you can form some compelling insights and give some great development directions. 

Leadership Culture Types

Another area that is also essential to know about yourself as a leader is your natural leadership type. Does it tend to be more managerial, or does it tend to be more influencing? We know that leadership and management are different, but they do overlap. There are many definitions of what a manager and leader are. Some say they are both leaders, but one has a driver or task focus, and the other enhances with people focus. But what

is agreed is that management and leadership styles are needed to be an effective leader. They are both required to be an effective leader as they are complementary to each other and overlap. Both are essential for leading, but we often have one that’s more natural than the other. A leader will always naturally find different roles and situations requiring different styles. This involves the leader learning to be flexible and adapt to the environment or even adapt to the people. Extended DISC® recognises the differences in the two styles as it’s imperative to

know which type to which they might have a natural tendency. If the leader has an awareness of themselves that they can learn to combine with the other style, that’s even more beneficial. For example, managerial types might learn to soften around their people, while people styled leaders might learn to be a bit tougher and focus on tasks, details and results. It’s this awareness that makes them great leaders, and they can adapt themselves when needed. They can play to their strengths when needed and potentially surround themselves with others to help deal with their development areas when needed. 

Types of Leadership Cultures

We know different roles and situations require different leadership profiles. Extended DISC® describes the four-quadrant model of human behaviour, and each quadrant is connected with the style of D, I, S, or C, or a combination of them. Behavioural styles located on the diamond map also represent a leadership culture. You can see on the slide (15.08) where the different cultures fit on the diamond, and you can see the name of the different cultures of the behavioural style that impact and influence it. 

Understanding your natural leadership culture how it may evolve is a great idea because it can highlight some excellent information. Let’s take some time to have a look at them in a little bit more depth. We will start with the active side on the right of the diamond. Then we will work our way around to the more reserved types of leadership on the left of the diamond. Let’s start with the D style leaders.

D Style Leadership Culture

The D style leader, the one we call authoritative, focuses more on an authoritarian style of leadership where the leader is almost in complete control and in charge. This type of culture tends towards one where the leader manages the followers and can apply pressure to attain targeted short-term goals. The leader tells the followers listen. Things like speed and quick execution are synonymous with this type of leader. D style leaders tend to be comfortable in crises and don’t mind making tough decisions quickly and often without much information. 

An area that can tend to be a challenge for the D style leader is that they are so results-driven that they can overlook people’s strengths or see people as just another resource which again supports a common view that they can be quite unempathetic. 

DI Style Leadership Culture

The DI leader more likely displays a dynamic leadership style, one of change. The I style in them presents that persuasive, charismatic, and enthusiastic leadership style. The D style demands that quick results and very much ‘compete to win.’ Change leaders of visionary pioneers because they focus on the big picture. They are effective and energetic. They often create an optimistic atmosphere. 

I Style Leadership Culture

The I style leader tends to be more informal and usually social while focusing on creativity, positivity and enthusiasm. A high energy environment is often more valued than things like accuracy, tasks, details or the rules. Emphasis on personal relationships and leading as friends are common though they still promote competitiveness through inspiration and not much pressure. Often their authority is based on charisma, motivation and producing a good atmosphere. The informal leader will often thrive on new and evolving organisations that harness a lot of variety. They are seen as people leaders and need and love contact with others.

IS Style Leadership Culture

The IS style leader focuses on a participative style of leadership. Therefore a cohesive team spirit and being open, friendly and receptive is usually the result of their guidance. Participative leaders work with followers and tend not to be hierarchical. Goals and responsibilities tend to be shared, and often this type of leader serves more as a facilitator than a manager.

S Style Leadership Culture

S leadership type culture tends to be considered a little bit more reserved. The team will see the S type leader as being supportive. They tend to guide, teach and develop followers. The S style leader emphasises loyalty, consensus, trust and sincerity. Supportive style leaders support their team and provide and expect to receive mutual support back from their team. Their authority often comes from things like experience and expertise. They are also comfortable maintaining a stable and service-oriented approach to their leadership. Supportive style leaders emphasise gradual evolution while strongly focusing upon agreed long term goals. They often feel comfortable leading a small team and show a lot of participation and a hands-on type approach. 

SC Style Leadership Culture

The SC leader focuses as carefully on planning. These planning leaders are thoughtful, cautious and structured in their leadership. They tend to operate in known areas and are seen as calm but determined to do things the right way. They clearly communicate expectations and will carefully prepare to meet set objectives. 

C Style Leadership Cultures

C style leader tends to emphasise quality, rules and compliance. The quality type leader tends to maintain distance from the team and therefore might create a less interpersonal connection. The team often views them as a bit aloof from people at times, especially from the perspective of the high people-oriented styles that enjoy the connection. The focus of the quality leader is on a systemic approach and ensures everyone knows what has specifically expected of them. They tend to prefer emails and written directions to communication as then they have evidence in history to back them up if needed. As a leader, they will analyse details and an interested in facts of a situation rather than the emotive feelings.

CD Style Leadership Cultures

The CD leader focuses on power through authority and often centralised leadership. These power-centred leaders often have a very high standard, are very demanding of themselves and others, and have a low tolerance for errors in unauthorised changes. Their leadership culture tends to be formal and often hierarchical. Therefore any expectation is that of high individualism, and they often instil that in their environment. They prefer a structured and practical approach along with relying on data as well as information.

Strengths and Challenges of Leadership

Like anything, we can gain some insights from generalised information about these leadership cultures’ strengths and development areas. These areas tend to be typical of that style and can be utilised or improved to enhance their leadership performance in general. When we look at successful leaders, it’s apparent that effective leadership comes from all around the DISC quadrant. There’s no one particular behavioural style that is an effective leader. Instead, each leadership type brings its unique strengths and development areas to its own leadership culture. 

For example, the D style they like to control and make tough decisions when needed. The I style has high energy and can inject atmosphere into a team. The S styles tend to be doers, so they get things done while ensuring values such as fairness are ingrained in the team. Finally, the C focuses on doing things right, implementing rules, and are often experts.

Like anything where there are strengths, some areas need to be constantly looked at and potentially developed. The D style needs to be more aware of others strengths and how much change and risk they may implement. The I style needs to keep an eye out for the end goal and stay organised, planned and focused. The S style needs to make decisions faster if the message is one of change and think outside the status quo. Finally, the C style needs to be less critical of themselves and others, be prepared to embrace unpredictability, and be less of a perfectionist.

Extended DISC® Lead and Manage Assessment

We’ve had a good look at some of the leadership cultures and their impact, strengths and development areas. The new Lead and Manage assessment has all these and more. So, let’s take a look. HR Profiling has just released the Lead and Manage today. It’s typically a shorter styled report, so it goes nicely in conjunction with the standard assessment. In this case, it can be a standalone report as it includes the profile and diamond graphs. It concentrates on specific information that might help leadership development. One of the main areas it focuses on is the competencies that highlight the difference between leadership and management. The Lead and Manage assessment also includes the profile graphs and the size, similarity and position table to help you analyse the profiles. The table especially assists in identifying any special cases apparent in the profiles. As you see on the screen (24:42) there, the P Size is about the size of the profiles. The P Sim indicates the similarity between the two, and the P Pos is the position where the graph lies on the profile. These attributes can be beneficial in determining special cases. 

The Lead and Manage also includes the flexibility Diamond with the arrow so you can see how someone might want to flex their behaviour. The arrow also demonstrates how they are currently adapting, if at all.

The leadership culture diamond is also in the report. Like we’ve just been through today, this shows a few snippets of what each leadership style is without going into too much depth. The diamond allows you to locate a person’s profile and match it to the corresponding leadership culture.

The ‘You at a Glance’ page is about how your employees may perceive you. It’s great for reality checks, though it’s not as in-depth as a 360 feedback report. Still, it does offer some excellent information on how others might perceive you in general and especially some strengths about those perceptions.

The lead and manage assessment incorporates both the management diamond and the new leadership diamond. Like a flexibility map, it demonstrates where the leader’s natural style is mapped, and that can correlate with the wording about the various management and leadership behaviours. These diamonds really help bring a leaders potential style into context, and you can see on the screen (26:26) the blue area on the management map image and social is highlighted. Whereas in the leadership diamond, they are about inspiring and encouraging.

The area that has had many benefits for leadership is the pages of competencies towards the back. These are broken into some detailed areas of management versus leadership styles. They’re split into subheadings even further, so you can build a good picture of this person’s managerial style versus leadership style and their different behaviours. Other areas covered in the report include how you help your employees achieve their goals and how you achieve your goals. It also has your decision-making style and how your employees see your decision-making style. Some of the other pages are motivators, situations that reduce motivation, verbal communication style and how others see your communication style. 

Of course, the report also includes development tips about improving leadership. These tips focus on reminders, suggestions of what to avoid, and specific development areas unique to a candidate’s style. The overuse diamond is brilliant to visually highlight to a leader their potential issues of overusing strengths. It’s a great talking point for what we’ve been talking about already today. Finally, it has a personal action plan formatted in a simple workbook style for the leader to fill in and start thinking about certain areas of their assessment. 

Also, new out and to support the assessment is the new brochure that goes along with the Lead and Manage assessment. The brochure is an excellent tool for consultants and coaches pitching this report to their clients. It’s ideal in promoting the report’s content, what to expect, and laying the foundations of the theory on which the assessment is based. In addition, the brochure discusses how to use the report, from identifying future managers in your team to pages that remind us that we can use open preview in leadership development and the possibility of customising a report that can help enhance leadership development programs. 

We know that effective leaders are often determined by how well they interact with their employees and others. Their competence to relate, communicate, influence and motivate others are critical skills these days. You need them to create successful long-term relationships with everyone from subordinates, customers, prospects, and colleagues to stakeholders. A successful leader is self-aware and knows who they are, especially concerning strengths and development areas. They are aware of their strengths, but they know when not to overuse them making them a hindrance. They are aware of their development areas and choose what and when to develop them. However, they certainly don’t ignore or deny them. Effective leaders are aware that they need to modify and adapt their behaviour from one interaction and situation to the next, sometimes inspiring and charismatic and at other times directive. They understand that to have effective interactions with employees they must identify their styles and modify their leadership style to suit the role or people around them or the situation. Therefore being self-aware as a leader is of utmost and very critical.