How to Crack the Self-Awareness Paradigm (HBR)

To bring people together around a common cause, it is critical that a leader be self aware. Jeff Immelt’s recent comments to the cadets at West Point reminded me of this fact.

Immelt, CEO of General Electric, said he he’s learned lessons from the Great Recession that have made him “humbler and hungrier… I needed to be a better listener coming out of the crisis… I should have done more to anticipate the radical changes that occurred,” he added. Such an admission reveals an executive who is comfortable in his own skin, even as he is making hard decisions about the future of his company.

Coming to terms with yourself is a private matter. But if you fail to come to terms with your own limitations and it affects your ability to lead then it could be worthy of public scrutiny. Toward that end, here are three questions leaders can ask themselves, or a trusted associate or two, about their own managerial performance.

1. What more do I need? This question might seem easy because a leader will always say she needs more time. True enough, but lack of time is often an excuse for failing to address simmering issues or to carry projects through to fruition. Ask yourself and others what you need to do more of; one answer might be “doing less.” That is, learn to delegate more and devote your time to thinking.

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First posted on 12/23/2009