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Leading Authentically Begins With Self-Awareness.

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” – Ralph Ellison

I love this quote by Ralph Ellison because it beautifully captures the theme of this month's newsletter. It reminds us of what we stand to gain when we truly discover our authentic self and can step out from behind a facade of fear and into the light of freedom to choose.

Freud brought the concept of awareness to life with his visualization of an iceberg when discussing his model of the mind. Picture an iceberg. 10% of the iceberg is visible and 90% remains invisible below the surface. The visible part of the iceberg is like our conscious mind - what we are aware of and what is observed by others. This includes our actions, behaviours, results and impact. And below the waterline is our preconscious and unconscious mind. This includes our values, feelings, motives, mindsets and attitudes. According to Freud and many other experts in the field of psychology, it’s the 90% that is responsible for whether we sink or swim.

As a leader, it is critical to develop our ability to exercise more choice about our behaviour and to understand why we do what we do. To do this we need to build our self-awareness; to understand how our pre-conscious and unconscious mind influence our choices and our decisions so that we can more effectively align our impact with our intentions.

We have all witnessed colleagues demonstrating a lack of self-awareness. Perhaps they got defensive or passive-aggressive. Maybe they shut down a conversation or said something others found offensive, yet they were completely oblivious as to how they came across. It is a lot easier to recognize it in others than it is to see it in ourselves. In fact, while 95% of us believe that we are self-aware, in reality, only 10-15% actually are, according to a recent study by Tasha Eurich.

Conversely, when we are aware of how our “internal states, preference, resources and intuitions” (a definition proposed by Psychologist Daniel Goleman, in his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence”) influence how we “show-up”, we can develop our ability to be more aware of our impact and make better choices.

Why does this matter?

When we lead with awareness, we lead from our strengths, we know our limitations, and how our emotions help or get in the way. It enables us to perform better, advance to more senior positions and be more effective. Being self-aware gifts us the opportunity to understand what drives us and to make conscious choices about how we respond to situations and how others are likely to experience us. It connects us with our authentic self - as Bill George puts it - our True North.

Bottom line? It frees us.

Really knowing yourself is hard work. Perhaps some of the hardest work you will do. But until you know how to lead yourself, you cannot effectively lead others. I hope that my story and what you hear from leading experts will support you in your own journey.

My Story

My lack of self-awareness as a young leader almost cost me the very thing I was hoping to create.

My Library

Tasha Eurich and her research team reveal many surprising roadblocks, myths, and truths about what self-awareness is and what it takes to improve it.

When leaders become authentic, they are in the position to lead experiences that transform the organizations they work with. They empower teams and build loyalty, trustworthiness, collaboration, engagement and commitment. They have an attitude of gratitude and work diligently toward creating and sustaining success.

Bill George discusses how powerful people lose their moral bearings. To stay grounded executives must prepare themselves to confront enormous complexities and pressures.

When we get to the point that “What got you here, won’t get you there”, we often feel a tension between our “authentic-self” and who we need to be. Professor Herminia’s TED Talk helps us to view ourselves as works in progress and how evolving our professional identities through trial and error, can develop us in ways that both feel right to us and suit our changing circumstances.

Tools to develop your self-awareness


Consider asking yourself the following:

  • When am I at my best? Who am I being? How are others experiencing me?

  • What situations make me feel terrible or frustrated? What do they have in common? What do I believe about myself and about others in those moments? How are others experiencing me as a result?

The 5 Best Times And Ways To Ask For Feedback Asking for feedback can feel uncomfortable, but it’s an essential part of career development.

Deep Dive

Discover Your True North by Bill George

I was recently introduced to Discover Your True North. In conjunction with the companion fieldbook, Bill George does an amazing job of guiding you to find “the leader you were born to be” and to create a plan and support structure for how to get there. For anyone you is curious about understanding their authentic leadership style, I highly recommend this book. Expect to spend 40+ hours with the material to get the most out of it.

Get it on Amazon or at Indigo.


Reach Your Peak was born out of my vision to work alongside leaders who thrive and not just survive. As a coach, I am often asked to suggest pieces of thought leadership and tools to support my client’s movement towards their goals. The purpose of this newsletter is to offer this content to a wider audience interested in expanding their learning edge.  I hope you enjoy "Leading Authentically begins with Self-Awareness".

To thrive: progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.

To survive: remain alive or in existence.

You can subscribe to Reach Your Peak here.


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