“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” – Aristotle
Emotional self-awareness might sound like a buzzword found in too many articles on leadership and office culture. It is actually a crucial skill developed and valued by the best leaders out there. Emotional self-awareness is the ability to be aware of your feelings at all times, to be able to correctly identify what you’re feeling and why.
Why is this so crucial to leaders? To quote the movie Remember the Titans, “Attitude reflects leadership.” We are emotional beings – the emotions we bring to work every day dictate our attitudes and will take the lead in the workplace. People follow our example.
Before you leave for work one morning, you have a fight with your significant other and you’re angry when you arrive at the office. You don’t make eye contact with anyone as you walk to your office, where you close your door and isolate yourself.
Consider for a moment the effect this has on your team.
You’ve ignored people as you walk in, so people are hesitant to approach you. Your door is closed, so it’s quite literally hard to get to you. Both of these are roadblocks for communication flow in the office. Through your anger, you have created an atmosphere of fear and nervousness, as well as set an undertone of isolation. Since you’re not speaking to anyone, people probably feel like they shouldn’t speak to anyone else either.
You get the picture.
Like a stone thrown into a lake, our actions create ripples throughout our organization.
Is this the kind of workplace you want to create?
Of course not! Which is why it’s so important to understand the impact your emotions have on your team. Leaders set the tone for the entire office. When you’re happy, relaxed and committed to working hard, so too will be the rest of your team. Not only that, but your attitude sets the tone for trust (read more about trust here).
Emotional self-awareness takes time to develop. You have to work on it in both your professional and personal life. Next time you’re feeling motivated, take a moment to sense out how you literally feel physically. Are you talking faster than normal? Are you using more exaggerated body language? Are you smiling and making eye contact?
Similarly, notice how you behave when you are stressed. Do you speak in shorter sentences? Are you more physically closed off? Begin to notice these things in yourself and you can then begin to think about how people are reading you.
What do you want to say to your workplace every day? Is it that you are stressed and angry? Or is it that you are excited about the day ahead, ready to get to work and to help others also get to work? It is the responsibility of a leader to be very emotionally aware, and the best leaders are those who use their emotions to empower their offices.