If you were in charge of recruiting Uber’s next CEO to replace embattled Travis Kalanick, what qualifications would be at the top of your list? Given the recent publicity around Uber’s abusive workplace, one can only hope the company’s next leader knows how to create a positive and safe work environment, especially for women. John Thompson, the executive recruiter in charge of the Uber search, has another quality at the top of his screening criteria. Thompson says that it’s essential for the next CEO “to be sufficiently self-aware to know his or her limitations,” a quality clearly missing in Kalanick. Self-awareness isn’t a qualification that gets much attention in CEO or other executive job descriptions, but I think Thompson is right on target. Increasingly, research around effective leadership is elevating self-awareness to a “must-have” quality in executives and managers. Dan Golman, author of the groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence, defines self-awareness as folllows:“… having a deep understanding of one’s strengths, limitations, values and motives. People with high self-awareness are honest with themselves about themselves. They are realistic, neither overly self critical nor excessively optimistic. Self-reflection and thoughtfulness are two common attributes found in these people. Such people reflect things over and do not react impulsively.”I would add that self-aware leaders are able to face the truth, particularly in receiving difficult feedback from peers or others. In my client work, I ask leaders to try out some of these self-awareness practices:
- Develop an explicit set of core values to guide your behavior and decisions -Make time to reflect on your core values periodically to keep them visible to you.
- Be conscious about how you want to show up and behave in all your engagements – Before entering meetings and conversations with staff or other individuals, take a moment to ask yourself, “What kind of person do I choose to be in this moment?”
- Pay attention to your emotions (negative and positive) and how to manage them -During meetings or in conversations, take the time to check in with our body to sense your what you are feeling. Are you upset or even-keeled, impatient or frustrated. Notice your posture. Is it closed and defensive or open and relaxed?
- Develop the presence, patience and practices for authentic listening– Get in the habit of repeating back what you think another person is saying and asking if you have it right. Take care to understand what’s being said (or not said) and that your’renot jumping ahead by forming a response in your mind.
- Ask for feedback on your behavior – Check with co-workers, friends or family about how they are experience your behavior, particularly in difficult conversations.
- Take up a meditative practice – It doesn’t matter what the practice is – walking in the woods or listening to calming music – as long as it offers you time for quiet reflection on your internal self.
Overall, leaders who value self-awareness experience more trust, respect and loyalty from employees, which translates into better morale and higher productivity for organizations. It can also keep companies out of Uber-like firestorms.