How Being Self-Aware Prevents Leaders Falling into "Auto-Pilot" Mode

Have you ever reacted without thinking things through? Have you ever said something, only to regret it later?

If so, you might be on what I like to call “autopilot”, which means you are navigating through your busy days in reactive mode, trying to survive vs. thrive.

When I think of great leaders, they do not operate on autopilot. They are very mindful, self-aware, emotionally astute leaders and they “show up” in a purposeful way, striving to move the business and people forward no matter the circumstances. They also have healthy self-care habits and a high degree of agility and resilience.

Several additional traits come to mind when I think about effective and inspiring leadership. 

Integrity, compassion, authenticity, empathy, and the ability to engage others are all critical aspects of leadership, but there’s something that the most successful leaders have in common that sets them apart: they are self-aware and grounded in who they are.

Self-awareness serves as an essential aspect of leadership and it is critical to possess inside and outside the corporate world. Being self-aware is what enables us to feel more grounded and rooted in who we are.  

When you are in a position of leadership, maintaining a strong sense of self-awareness can be challenging, especially when you have a heavy workload coupled with our present-day circumstances. With so much going on and so much riding on your ability to motivate your people, taking the time to check in honestly with your own performance can be challenging.

So, how can you improve your self-awareness as a leader and feel more grounded in who you are? Let us look at some tips that may be useful to you as you strive to increase your self-awareness and confidence in your overall effectiveness.

  1. Defining Your Values

What values are most important to you and your organization? And how well are you exemplifying those values on a day-to-day basis?

Take a moment to write down the core values that drive you and your organization. The list might look something like this:

  • Honesty and open communication
  • Teamwork
  • Dependability
  • Flexibility
  • Continuous learning and growth
  • Efficiency

Once you have identified your core values, check in with them on a regular basis (at least once per week) and ask yourself how well you have been adhering to them. Give yourself a score on a 1-10 scale.

If you’re honest, you’ll probably be surprised at one or more of the results, but doing this exercise allows you to gain a real perspective on your ability to lead, which gives you the opportunity to improve. Over time, you should see steady forward progress that will translate into more effective leadership and more highly engaged employees.

  1. Level Set Your Own Expectations

Peter Drucker came up with one of the best methods for leadership self-evaluation: in a process he called feedback analysis, he suggested that leaders should write down what they expect will happen as a result of making an important decision.

Taking note of your expectations helps you self-discover a few things:

  1. It forces you to think through your decision-making process
  2. It creates a scenario in which you are held more accountable so that the desired outcome is achieved
  3. It creates an opportunity for you to improve your leadership through self-reflection

When you revisit your expectations on a regular basis, you can compare them to what you wrote with what actually happened, giving you an opportunity to evaluate your leadership effectiveness, become more self-aware by adjusting where needed.

  1. Use Feedback to Your Advantage

Sometimes the best way to become more self-aware is to step outside of your own perspective and see yourself as others see you.

The people you lead are invaluable resources when it comes to improving your self-awareness because they work with you on a regular basis. Ask your employees, peers, and respective manager for feedback. Pay attention to how they interact with you. Are they eager to connect with you and share their thoughts? Or do they seem standoffish and distant avoiding your emails and phone calls? Watch and learn as your people interact with you; in every interaction, there is a story that explains what you are like as a leader, so take notice and engage in the  necessary steps to become an even more effective leader.

  1. Self-Awareness and Opportunities for Improvement

As you become more self-aware, you may not like some of the aspects you discover about yourself. This may discourage you from continuing your journey of expanding your self-awareness because it is difficult to face the fact that you may not be performing up to the expectations you have set for yourself.

Although it’s challenging, I recommend thinking about it this way: when you realize that you are making mistakes or failing to live up to your leadership values, you are actually being presented with amazing opportunities to improve. Becoming a more effective leader is a continuous process, so take the lessons you learn through these self-awareness exercises and apply them with the confidence in knowing that you are improving every day.

What are your thoughts on being on “autopilot”, self-awareness, and evaluating your own leadership style? Please let us know what you think. I am here and available to support your leadership success so give me a call at 1.855.871.3374 or send me an email at We would love to hear from you!

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