Esther Kuku writes that developing self-awareness, emotional intelligence and a growth mindset will help you become a better leader
We cannot be more connected to other people than we are to ourselves, because self-awareness is a key principle of effective leadership. So, what is self-awareness all about? It’s understanding ourselves, our emotions and our skills. This will help us to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, which will make us better problem solvers. It can even improve our relational skills, making us better friends, spouses and teammates.
One of my strengths is that I’m a committed Christian and my faith embodies my core values. I believe in the servant-hearted leadership approach, demonstrated by Christ, and outlined in Mark 10:43-45: “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Having a mindset that leading is really about being an expert in caring for other people will help develop a heart that is pure and free from pride. It will also keep us authentic and consistent in our leadership style.
Emotional intelligence, self-awareness and a growth mindset are all key traits of strong leaders.
Emotional intelligence will help you to manage your weaknesses. For example, I’ve mentioned my strengths. I can also say that whenever I’m very hungry and tired at the same time, well… that’s not a good combination for me! I cannot, simultaneously, manage both of those conditions well, so I’ve learned to always, without fail, have some sort of snack in my bag. And getting to bed on time is a journey I am still on! A growth mindset says it’s OK if I have these weaknesses; I can improve even if it’s small daily steps of focus and a commitment to continuous learning.
Continuous learning and progress are key, and being able to turn mistakes, challenges and failures to your advantage is all part of adopting a growth mindset. Self-awareness will help you prepare for failure and a growth mindset will make you celebrate it. If you, like me, are fully aware that your mouth has got you into trouble before…then you prepare for mistakes in that area. How? Well, sometimes you can determine to not always have an opinion. You can enter a meeting, having gone for a walk beforehand so you’re completely at peace, and decide that to live a more peaceful life, you will just refuse to respond to negativity. That’s a strategy embedded in emotional intelligence — managing your emotions, instead of them managing you and being fully aware that you could get it wrong BUT at least you have a plan! AND you’re developing the psychological tools to do better — and you will. Of course, in our success equation, prayer is the biggest factor of all.
Thessalonians 5:16 says: ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’
Self-awareness also helps us to set boundaries and to forgive others for their shortcomings because we are fully aware that none of us are the full package. It also promotes unity. When we are fully aware we don’t know it all, it makes us more likely to draw on the expertise of a wider team. We listen to others and value their opinions; we ask the right questions with growth in mind; and we work more collaboratively. Insecurities, division and toxicity will be scarce in work environments, home and church spaces where self-awareness, emotional intelligence and a growth mindset are front and centre.
Thanksgiving and gratitude are central to all of this — as is the revelation that we are so blessed to be able to empower and help to shape the lives of others. Self-awareness should cause us to check ourselves regularly: am I complaining too much, becoming critical or ungrateful? Sometimes when we’ve been doing something for a long time, we can forget how passionate we were at the start. Gratitude goes out the window and we take the favour and grace of God on our lives for granted. The art of the possible is to daily give thanks for the position of leadership we find ourselves in — whether that’s in the home, workplace or church setting.
If you’re reading this and have grown weary in the leadership seat you occupy, command a grateful heart into existence, go before God and ask Him to relight that fire. Leadership is such a privilege; do all you can to do it well.
Esther Kuku is Director of Communications and Engagement for Resuscitation Council UK
Written by: Esther Kuku