Business Leadership Today

The Most Important Part of Leadership Development


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

The development of authentic leaders is a critical aspect that drives an organization’s success. 

Leadership development, a systematic approach for expanding the performance capability of individuals in leadership roles, plays a pivotal role in this context. It involves identifying, nurturing, and developing the skills and abilities of individuals to lead, influence, and achieve organizational goals.

The importance of leadership in an organization cannot be overstated. Leaders serve as the guiding force that steers the organization toward its vision. They inspire, motivate, and create an environment that fosters innovation, resilience, and growth. 

However, the journey to becoming an effective leader is not a straightforward process. It requires introspection, understanding, and most importantly, self-awareness.

This brings us to the crux of our discussion.

Effective leadership development hinges on self-awareness, which serves as the cornerstone for understanding one’s strengths, weaknesses, and the impact of one’s actions on others.

This article will delve into the nuances of self-awareness in leadership development, shedding light on its importance and the ways to cultivate it.

Understanding Leadership Development

Leadership development is a systematic process that involves expanding the capacity of individuals to perform leadership roles within organizations. These roles can be formal, with the associated responsibility and authority to achieve organizational goals, or they can be informal roles taken on by people who influence, guide, and inspire others toward achieving these goals.

The role of leadership development in an organization is multifaceted. It is not merely about identifying and developing potential leaders. Instead, it is about creating an environment that fosters leadership qualities in every member of the organization. 

This approach ensures that leadership is not confined to a select few but is a shared responsibility that permeates throughout the organization.

Leadership development programs aim to instill a sense of responsibility, improve decision-making skills, and encourage strategic thinking. They help individuals understand their strengths and weaknesses, learn to work effectively within a team, and ultimately, guide the organization as it pursues its objectives. 

These programs are designed to equip individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the complexities of leadership.

Leadership development serves as the backbone of an organization’s succession planning, ensuring a steady pipeline of capable leaders ready to take on challenges and steer the organization toward its vision. It is a proactive approach that prepares the organization for future challenges by developing competent leaders today.

It is a continuous process that nurtures talent, builds a culture of excellence, and drives organizational growth. It involves ongoing learning, feedback, and improvement, making it a vital component of an organization’s strategy.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership Development

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage our own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. It reflects competencies that constitute self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.


This is the ability to recognize and understand personal moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. Leaders high in self-awareness are unusually self-reflective and able to accurately perceive their own emotions.


Leaders with a high degree of self-regulation can manage their emotions and impulses. They think before they act, can say no, and don’t allow themselves to become too angry or jealous.


Leaders who are motivated are driven to achieve beyond expectations. They are passionate about their work and they are optimistic even when things don’t go as planned.


Empathetic leaders can understand the emotional makeup of other people. They are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic leaders are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others.

Social Skills

Leaders who do well in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. They’re just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they’re experts at getting their team to support them and be excited about a new mission or project.

Each component contributes to effective leadership in its own unique way:

  • Self-awareness allows leaders to understand their strengths and weaknesses, thereby enabling them to leverage their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
  • Self-regulation helps leaders to manage their emotions effectively, leading to better decision-making and conflict resolution. 
  • Motivation drives leaders to achieve their goals and inspires their team members to do the same. 
  • Empathy allows leaders to understand and relate to their team members, fostering a supportive and collaborative work environment. 
  • Social skills enable leaders to communicate effectively, manage conflicts, and build strong relationships with their team members.

Leaders can develop each component of emotional intelligence through various strategies. 

For instance:

  • Self-awareness can be enhanced through practices like mindfulness and self-reflection. 
  • Self-regulation can be improved by learning stress management techniques and developing resilience. 
  • Motivation can be fostered by setting challenging yet achievable goals. 
  • Empathy can be developed by actively listening to others and trying to see situations from their perspectives. 
  • Social skills can be improved by practicing active listening, improving non-verbal communication, and learning to give and receive feedback effectively.

Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in leadership development, with each of its components contributing to effective leadership. By developing these components, leaders can enhance their leadership skills and drive their organizations toward success.

The Importance of Self-Awareness in Leadership Development

Self-awareness, in essence, is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It is the ability to objectively assess oneself, to be aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses, and to understand how one’s actions affect others. 

This involves recognizing one’s own emotions and how they influence thoughts and behavior, understanding personal values, and recognizing one’s impact on others.

Self-awareness is not just important, it’s crucial for honing your leadership abilities. Leaders with a high degree of self-awareness are better equipped to understand and relate to their team members. 

Because they can identify their own emotional responses and understand how their actions may be perceived by others, they can manage their reactions and behaviors more effectively, leading to better decision-making and conflict resolution.

Moreover, self-aware leaders are more likely to be authentic, a trait that fosters trust and loyalty among team members. They are also better at recognizing their own areas of strength and weakness, allowing them to leverage their skills effectively and seek improvement in areas where they may be lacking.

Self-awareness allows leaders to navigate the complexities of interpersonal relationships in a business setting, leading to better team dynamics, improved communication, and, ultimately, a more successful organization. 

The Impact of Self-Awareness on Leadership Skills

Self-awareness significantly influences a leader’s decision-making process. 

Leaders with high self-awareness understand their own biases and emotions, which allows them to make more objective and rational decisions. They are able to separate their personal feelings from the situation at hand, leading to decisions that are in the best interest of the team or organization.

In terms of team dynamics, self-aware leaders are more effective at managing relationships within their teams. They understand how their actions and words affect others, enabling them to communicate more effectively and manage conflicts in a more constructive manner. 

They are also better at understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their team members, which allows them to delegate tasks more effectively and foster a more collaborative and productive team environment.

Most successful and inspiring leaders are usually incredibly self-aware. They take inventory of themselves and their leadership style and also note their effect and influence on their teams. They create and foster a culture that encourages and promotes trust, which translates into happy employees and happy customers.

Self-aware leaders tend to have better performance, higher levels of leadership effectiveness, and are more likely to be promoted. This is due to the fact that self-aware leaders have more accurate knowledge about their strengths and weaknesses, have positive attitudes toward feedback, and set goals to improve their performance.

Self-awareness plays a crucial role in enhancing a leader’s decision-making skills, improving team dynamics, and ultimately leading to more effective leadership. 

Developing Self-Awareness as a Leader

Developing self-awareness is a continuous journey that requires commitment and effort. It’s not something that happens overnight, but rather, it’s a process that unfolds over time as one gains more experience and insight. 

Here are some strategies that can help enhance self-awareness.


Regular self-reflection is a powerful tool for enhancing self-awareness. It involves taking time to think about your actions, decisions, and emotions. 

Reflecting on your experiences can help you understand your motivations, reactions, and biases. It allows you to step back and analyze your behavior and decisions, helping you understand why you do what you do and how you can improve.

Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Practices such as meditation and mindfulness exercises can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, thereby increasing self-awareness. 

By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to tune into your emotions and reactions in real-time, allowing you to manage your responses more effectively.

Keeping a Journal

Writing about your experiences and feelings can provide valuable insights into your behavior and reactions. It can help you identify patterns and triggers, which can lead to greater self-awareness. 

Journaling allows you to express your thoughts and feelings freely, providing a safe space for self-exploration and understanding.

Seeking Feedback

Constructive feedback from others can provide a different perspective on your actions and behavior. It can help you understand how others perceive you, which is an important aspect of self-awareness. 

Seeking feedback requires openness and the willingness to accept criticism, but it can lead to valuable insights and personal growth.

Feedback and self-reflection play a crucial role in building self-awareness. Feedback provides an external perspective on your actions and behavior. It can highlight areas of strength and areas that need improvement. 

On the other hand, self-reflection allows you to introspect and understand your inner self better. It helps you understand your emotions, reactions, and motivations. By combining feedback and self-reflection, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of yourself, leading to enhanced self-awareness. 

Developing self-awareness requires continuous effort and commitment. But the rewards, in terms of improved leadership skills and effectiveness, are well worth the effort.

The Power of Self-Awareness

Leadership development is a critical aspect of organizational success, and self-awareness is the cornerstone of this process. 

As author and businessman Lawrence Bossidy once said, “Self-awareness gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. It enables you to keep growing.” 

It allows leaders to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and the impact of their actions on others, leading to more effective decision-making, improved team dynamics, and ultimately, a more successful organization. 

A growing body of empirical research suggests that self-awareness is associated with successful leadership. For instance, a study found that leaders with high self-awareness were more effective in motivating and satisfying their employees, leading to increased productivity. 

Another research study found a strong correlation between a leader’s self-awareness and team performance. Teams led by individuals with high levels of self-awareness were found to function more effectively and perform better.

Moreover, self-awareness forms the foundation for emotional intelligence, a key factor in effective leadership. It allows leaders to navigate the complexities of interpersonal relationships in a business setting, leading to better team dynamics, improved communication, and ultimately, a more successful organization.

The importance of self-awareness in leadership development cannot be overstated. As we have seen, it plays a crucial role in enhancing a leader’s decision-making skills, improving team dynamics, and ultimately leading to more effective leadership. 

By understanding their own strengths, weaknesses, and the impact of their actions on others, leaders can make more informed decisions, manage their teams more effectively, and drive their organizations towards success. 

In the end, the most effective leaders are those who understand themselves, their teams, and their organizations. They are self-aware, emotionally intelligent, and committed to continuous learning and growth. 

And it is these leaders who are best equipped to navigate the complexities of today’s business environment and lead their organizations toward a successful future.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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