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Self-Awareness – The Key To Effective Leadership Development

Written by: Sara Sheehan, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Leadership development and self-awareness are closely intertwined. To grow as a leader, starting by looking within yourself is essential. Self-awareness is understanding your thoughts, feelings, and actions and how they impact others. It is the foundation for effective leadership and personal growth. In this article, I am pleased to share my methodology for tapping into greater self-awareness to impact effective leadership development and practices.

Happy businessman writing a business plan on whiteboard to his team on a meeting in board room.


One way to develop self-awareness is to take a step back and get perspective on how you interact with and impact others. Becoming more aware of your presence and how it impacts meetings, conversations, and outcomes is a crucial first step.

Active Listening

Another important aspect of self-awareness is active listening. By truly participating and being present in conversations, you can gain insight into how you engage with others and identify areas where you can improve. The SCARF model, which represents five domains of human social experience, can be a useful tool in this process. The domains include Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. Considering how these domains impact your interactions, you can find ways to make conversations more beneficial for the other person.

The SCARF Model:

  • Status is about where you are in relation to others around you.

  • Certainty is concerned with being able to predict the future.

  • Autonomy provides a sense of control over events.

  • Relatedness is a sense of safety with others, of a friend rather than a foe.

  • Fairness is a perception of impartial and just exchanges between people.

Inner Dialogue

The inner dialogue that takes place in your mind is also an important aspect of self-awareness. The thoughts and beliefs you hold about yourself can significantly impact your professional and personal life. By becoming more aware of these thoughts, you can work to shift them in a more positive direction.

Gratitude and Meditation

In addition to being aware of your thoughts, it is also important to cultivate a positive mindset through practices such as gratitude and meditation. Adding a daily gratitude practice, where you write down what you are thankful for and share it with others, can help to shift your focus to the positive things in your life. Similarly, meditation can help quiet the mind and increase your ability to be present. Some great smartphone apps like Headspace, Insights Timer, or Calm for meditation can be really helpful for getting started.

Exercise and Habits

Developing a habit of regular exercise can increase your energy level and improve your overall health. Habits support you in achieving your goal of regular exercise, as when you have an established habit, it becomes easier for your brain to exercise rather than sit on the couch. Creating a new habit takes just over 60 days. If you start small in your habit practice and track your progress, you’ll be more likely to keep going. It’s reasonable to start with a ten-minute walk and then do it daily. Once you create one habit, you’ll see how powerful and beneficial it can be.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, self-awareness is a crucial aspect of leadership development. By looking within, listening actively, and cultivating a positive mindset and healthy habits, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself and how you interact with others. This understanding can help you to become a more effective leader and experience personal growth in the process.

I have worked earnestly on my self-awareness and personal growth for the past few years. I’ve been reading a lot about mindset and its power to help or hinder us in life. I’ve noted what I am grateful for in a journal and even shared my appreciation with others as often as possible.

Putting those grateful words on paper and then speaking them out to others gives even more power to the positive thoughts behind them. I've also added regular meditation practice. It’s probably not surprising to hear that I see the value in these mindset practices as I have more clarity, joy, and peace, and I am calmer in the midst of what’s happening in the world and the news.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! How are you developing your self-awareness? Please share your story in the comments or connect with me to share your story personally on LinkedIn and visit my website for more info!


Sara Sheehan, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Sara Sheehan, PCC, is a consultant and Executive Coach who works with C-Level executive leaders designing organizations, developing business strategies, managing change, optimizing talent and leadership development, and solving complex human performance problems. Through executive coaching, Sara helps leaders sprint their way up the corporate ladder and increase their performance.



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