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3 reasons self-awareness makes you a better leader

| by Ben Marshall

How well do you know yourself? Think about it for a minute. 

When it comes to being you, you should be an expert. When you think about areas you succeed in, you know what you did and why it worked. When you think about areas you failed in, you know what you did and why it didn't work. 

What about those areas you are not skilled in, you know where you need to continue growing and learning. Thinking about your everyday life, you know how you respond to different situations, what annoys you, what makes you happy, what fills you up, and what drains you. This is “self-knowledge.”

The term “servant leader” has been a buzz word for quite awhile. There are a growing number of books and blogs about servant leadership. Ken Blanchard, one of the foremost voices on servant leadership, just edited a new book called Servant Leadership in Action. 

More is being published every day. Why? Servant leadership, as much as it is talked about, is hard to live out. It is possible, but it is not always easy. 

How can you serve an employee of yours who takes for granted the job you hired them to do, is lazy, and does just enough not to get fired? That can be frustrating. That can almost lead you to look for ways to get rid of them. 

As a servant leader, you can leap into action, take the initiative, and invest in that person. But what if he or she doesn't want to be invested in? Even if you are trying to be a good servant leader, it may not be well received.

Or, another example, why should you serve a hostile customer who disparages you and your company on social media, gets all their friends involved, writes nasty emails, and doesn't go away? 

The answer sounds simple, but it is much harder to live out. You should serve that customer because servant leadership builds a bridge. Hurt people hurt people. Serving a hurt person can build a bridge that bears the weight of that pain and can turn a hostile customer into a raving fan.

Servant leadership requires a proper perspective in every situation. It's more than something you do; it's who you are. 

Because servant leadership is about who you are, you have to know yourself. A servant leader must have a deep self-knowledge. This is a key ingredient to servant leadership and, truthfully, any kind of growth you might experience.

The deeper your self-knowledge, the greater you’ll be as a servant leader. Why? Here are three reasons a leader with deep self-knowledge makes a better servant leader:

(1) You’re aware of your strengths

When you know what you’re good at, you’re able to be a better leader. You can play to your strengths and know what assets you bring to the team. If you are going to be a servant leader, you will need to know what you are good at. When you know what you’re good at, you’re better equipped to serve others. With good self-knowledge, you don't need to pretend to be good at something you're not, but can instead develop a greater skill where you are already talented.

(2) You’re aware of your weaknesses

As a servant leader, you must know your shortcomings. You cannot be great at everything; it’s just not possible. If you truly want to be a servant leader, take time to evaluate yourself, and even ask others to evaluate you! 

For example, if I think that I'm really good with people but when I walk into a meeting and step all over people's ideas to further my own, I am not serving them well. It requires self-knowledge to see past your blind spots and realize that you are not serving your people by trampling their ideas. 

This kind of self-knowledge also requires feedback from those you work with. A servant leader will be able to handle honest feedback, and will even seek to cultivate a culture of honest feedback.

(3) You’re aware of where you need to grow

The more you know, the more you realize you don't know. Have you ever experienced that? 

This holds true in self-knowledge as well. The more you know yourself, the more you are aware of how far you have to go. We are all in-process; let's remember that and move forward to serve those around us (who are also in-process). 

When you understand and know that you still need to grow and learn and develop as a person and as a leader, it will help you treat others with more grace.

As leaders, we must do the hard work of serving others. It will build a legacy that lasts and a culture that people will want to be a part of.

Questions for further discussion:

What has been your experience with servant leadership?

When you think about those leaders who have been intentional about serving, what kind of attitude do you have toward them?

Why do you think servant leadership is such a big deal? Why do you think it can be so hard to live out?

Photo source: istock 

Ben Marshall

Ben Marshall is a Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Holland, Michigan. He oversees youth and young adults as well as serving as a campus pastor in a multi-site church. He is actively engaged in the social media platforms and website communication at Calvary. He is a blogger, guitar player, and sports enthusiast. Ben currently resides in Holland with his wife Connie and their daughter.

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