Comment: Self-awareness is strength

Nic Haralambous, author and founder of funding platform Slow-Hustle, explains how reassessing your strengths and weaknesses as an employer can benefit business in the long run.

Nic Haralambous is a business coach, consultant and host of the It's Not Over podcast, where he chats to business owners about their stories of success, survival and failure.

Selfish leaders are the worst. We've all had them and it's possible that you've been a selfish leader at some point, too. You might even be one right now and not realize it.

It's important to understand the term ‘self-awareness’ before taking steps to become a more self-aware leader. Self-awareness is the ability to monitor and understand yourself, your abilities, your emotions and your reactions to what happens in your business and life.

A self-aware leader understands what they do best, what they suck at and doesn't operate from a place of ego when talking about these things. Self-aware people attract the best team members and retain them for longer. 

Running a business is often about survival. When you exist in fight-or-flight mode, it's hard to consider others. This is understandable but can be a problem. If you can't treat staff with respect and show vulnerability when needed, you are making your job more difficult. 

As we muddle through a pandemic, digital fatigue, chronic burnout and other intense emotions, it's important to remember that the more knowledge you have about yourself, the better you and your business will perform.

Sometimes the best work you can do for your business is on improving yourself. For years, I drove my body into the ground and my teams suffered because of it. I lacked the self-awareness to give myself a break. I lacked the self-awareness to lead by taking time off and allowing my team to do the same. 

One of the best ways to build your own self-awareness is to create a culture of honesty. Your team should be able to speak their mind without fear. Practicing radical candor is a way to provoke caring and honest feedback on your own performance; it's a management philosophy focused on caring personally but challenging directly. Speak your mind but don't make it personal. 

Business owners like to take on as much as we think we can handle and then throw in 50% more on top of that for ourselves. But if you've taken the time to bring together a team of people who are the best, then let them be excellent at their work. Realizing that you are not the best at everything gives you permission to focus on the work that you love most. 

Company values as defined by the founder can be a source of conflict in a business. Do your personal values line up with your business values? Does your company claim honesty, integrity and transparency, yet you never give clear feedback without emotion? If these values don't line up, you have deeper issues. Either you're lying about your company values or your own. Which is it?

One of the maxims that I live by is ‘strong opinions, loosely held’, which is a key trait of a self-aware and strong leader. Set boundaries, have opinions and enforce them with strength – but, if the facts change, a self-aware leader is happy to change their opinion.

This article was first published in Courier issue 43, October/November 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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