The Biggest Hindrance to a Leader’s Growth

Sitting in an airport for a few hours can easily remind you that people struggle with self-awareness. There is the guy who does stretching exercises in a small and crowed space, the guy who talks extremely loud on his phone, and the person who lays down on the row of chairs without thinking others will soon want to sit there. Self-awareness is hard.

Ben Franklin wrote, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Will Mancini, who serves on our team at LifeWay and leads Auxano, recently told me that a lack of self-awareness is the biggest hindrance to a leader’s development. When we are not self-aware, we greatly hinder our own growth for three reasons:

1. A lack of self-awareness prevents understanding of what needs development.

All leaders have growing and maturing to do. None of us have arrived to the point where we don’t need adjusting and learning. A self-aware leader knows this about himself/herself and works to improve. A leader without self-awareness fails to improve because the leader fails to see what needs improvement.

2. A lack of self-awareness numbs receptivity to feedback.

Leaders grow with feedback, when they receive coaching from others. It takes self-awareness to receive and apply coaching. Leaders who are not self-aware are numb to feedback. They may look like they are listening but the lack of adjustment reveals their receptivity to feedback has been numbed.

3. A lack of self-awareness mutes the impact of others.

Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, defined emotional intelligence as “the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively… It consists of four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skills.” A relationally intelligent leader is self-aware and simultaneously benefits from the people around him or her. A leader without self-awareness will struggle relationally and mute the influence others can have.

The biggest hindrance to a leader’s development is not intelligence or work ethic. It is a lack of self-awareness.