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All superheroes (and leaders) have a shadow side

How the best leaders identify and account for weaknesses

Welcome to For Leaders, your go-to source for essential leadership insights and perspectives shaping today's world.

In this week’s newsletter:

  • Strategic Summaries: Key insights and takeaways on the importance of self-awareness

  • Words of Wisdom: A powerful leadership quote to inspire

  • Leaders’ Library: What we’re reading this week

A curated community of leaders.

Strategic Summaries

A weekly roundup of the most interesting, useful and thought-provoking articles to help you be a better leader. This week we’re focusing on self-awareness.

Soft skills. This article explores the question, Can self-awareness help leaders more than an MBA?  

Our take: Approximately 40% of C-suite executives are MBA grads, yet numerous studies have shown that organizations led by those with an MBA perform worse than those led by a CEO without this degree. 

Why? MBA curricula has traditionally focused on linear logic and technical skills. While there is an increasing awareness of the importance of soft skills like self-awareness and empathy, they are still not taught in balance with hard skills.  

Bill George, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School, and former CEO of Medtronic, believes that the starting point of leadership is self-awareness. A solid business strategy can only get you so far if your team has no interest in following you. 

Key takeaway: For most leaders, self-awareness must be learned outside of university and the workplace. It remains up to each individual to find their own path to improving this skill. 

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Beyond self-awareness. Tapping into the ‘awareness of self and impact’ mindset.  

Our take: Self-awareness is a recognition of your strengths and weaknesses, and the humility to accept things that need improvement. Beyond that, it includes filtering feedback to know what is worth acting on and reflecting on how your words and behavior impact others. 

You can learn this by stepping out of your comfort zone: challenge what you think you can do and push yourself one step further. You’ll naturally learn about yourself and enter a developmental frame of mind. 

Getting feedback from those around you is also helpful in seeing how others perceive you. From there, look back to examine your thought processes and behavior, if your perception matches the feedback, and what that tells you about yourself. 

Key takeaway: True self-awareness comes from accepting that others’ perceptions of you may not align with how you see yourself. Being open to hearing what others have to say and taking an honest look internally are good places to start.  

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Our take: This interesting essay from executive coach Ed Batista considers what he calls the “shadow sides” of a person’s “superpowers”. He finds that, for every one of his client’s strengths, there’s an opposite aspect. 

People naturally tend to focus on their strengths, using them as tools for dealing with problems. These can be effective for predictable situations but they can be problematic in unexpected circumstances.  

When you repeatedly rely on these same tools, they actually blind you to alternatives. In essence, by overusing these strengths, they become weaknesses.      

Key takeaway: Like superheroes, your greatest gift may be intertwined with your biggest flaw. Making the effort to become aware of these, and untangling them, will go a long way to becoming more self-aware. 

Words of Wisdom

One weekly, impactful quote for leaders.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

– Aristotle

Leaders’ Library

Every week, we share an interesting long-form piece of content to contemplate.

This powerhouse of a book combines fascinating research about self-awareness as the meta-skill of the 21st century with Eurich’s experience working in the Fortune 500 world.  

She breaks the news that most of us are quite poor at judging ourselves and how we come across to others. We also don’t know how to get honest feedback from others, most of whom go to great lengths to avoid telling us the truth. 

She rebuts common strategies for increasing self-awareness (e.g. introspection, journaling, and gaining experience). She then puts forth seven types of self-knowledge to focus on instead.  

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week with more powerful leadership insights and inspiration.

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