To Become a Better Leader, Be Aware
“Uber-achievers, like many current and post-MBAs, often fall into the trap of thinking that working harder will get them ahead—and into that next leadership role. But hard work takes them only so far. What we fail to emphasize in business school and in corporate mentorship programs is the importance of developing softer skills—an “awareness” of yourself and the people around you that helps you leverage previously untapped personal qualities. In other words, leaders need to develop empathy—a concept that is infinitely more complex than it sounds.
Most good managers have strong technical skills, the social skills to manage relationships, and the self-motivation to succeed. Exceptional leaders, however, demonstrate what Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, describes as “awareness.” That is, the ability to read the room (social awareness) and the ability to read your effect on the people in the room (self-awareness).
For example, an executive aware of the people around her will feel the tension at the start of a sales meeting and immediately work to relieve it before launching into the new quarterly sales targets. That leader also will understand that the tenor of her response to a complaint about those quarterly sales targets will mean the difference between escalating that tension and creating a sense that her team can handle—even exceed—whatever sales targets corporate throws at them.”