At first it startled me. Then, after figuring out what it was, I found it a bit amusing. But as time passed, and my feathered friend continued to fly face first – or should I say beak first -- into our picture window, I actually began to feel sorry for the little fella. Blinded to the reality of his own plight, he persisted in this self-destructive behavior for some time. Finally, after spotting my waving arms just beyond the illusion that had originally lured him in, the battered little bird flew off to better things.
As I thought about this bird’s foolish actions I was reminded of times in my own life where I’d mirrored his behavior. Times where I had been drawn into the pursuit of something that really wasn’t what I thought it was. Blinded to the realities of my own situation, I too had haphazardly flown into some windows in life. What’s worse, as a leader I had led others down this same path. Epitomizing the blind leading the blind, I struggled with what I believe to be one of the most critical elements of leadership: self-awareness.
Simply put, self-awareness is an ability to see oneself accurately in relation to both internal and external forces in life. Because it plays a critical role in the understanding and development of virtually every other aspect of life, I truly believe self-awareness is the most important attribute in leadership. Plain and simple, if you don’t have an accurate understanding of where you are, you won’t have an accurate understanding of where you need to go, or how best to get there, for that matter.
The little bird was persistent; but he also lacked focus, was set in his ways, and acted impulsively. Although we don’t know what was going through his mind, we do know that he was pursuing an illusion. And, only after outside intervention was he really able to recognize this. I wonder how many of us have blindly pursued dangerous illusions as a result of our own lack of focus, stubbornness, or even impulsiveness? On top of that, how many of us have ignored the interventions that could have helped us avoid the perils of flying blindly?
The bottom line is this: If you’re serious about growing as a leader, you must get serious about developing a healthy level of self-awareness. And, although the process can be quite extensive, I’ve found the following three steps to be helpful in at least starting this journey as a leader.
- 1. Reflect upon the realities of the past: Find reoccurring patterns from past failures and successes and consider what they reveal about your strengths and weaknesses? Where have you flown blindly in the past?
- 2. Recognize present realities: Consider where you are today in terms of mental, physical, emotional, and relational health? Rank yourself from 1-10 in each area, as these areas reveal much about the heart of who you are today.
- 3. Seek critical feedback: Find three to five people in your life who love you enough to tell you the truth when it hurts, have no hidden agenda, and truly understand who you are. Discuss your findings within the previous two steps, and then invite them to tell you the truth!
Although I plan to elaborate on the topic of self-awareness in the future, my hope for you today is that you will give serious thought to these steps. And, in so doing, will gain some insights that will help you avoid the dangers of flying blindly - especially as a leader.
Photo By: Jos Dielis