The Advancing Leadership Blog

Self-awareness & how it affects your business

It is estimated that up to 50% of high level executives temporarily or permanently derail during their career, costing their employer from $12 to $50 million per executive. The best leaders are aware of what motivates them and their decision making, allowing them to better observe their own strengths and weaknesses, minimizing the chances of their own derailment and improving their performance.

A study done by The Korn/Ferry Institute looked at 2,700 business leaders and asked them to identify what they believed to be their strengths and weakness. They then categorized the responses into blind spots and hidden strengths.

A blind spot is skill that respondents perceive as strength when in reality is a weakness that they cannot see themselves, even though others could. 

Korn/Ferry discovered 80% of executives have at least one blind spot. The two fields that were identified as being particularly problematic were demonstrating personal flexibility and getting work done through others.

Hidden Strength: A specific skill that a business leader rates as a weakness or something they need to improve, when in reality everyone else see it as a strength. It was found that 40% of leaders have at least one hidden strength.

Disregarding your strengths can cause you to spend needless amounts of energy trying to fix something that isn’t broken or underuse these leadership skills.

To avoid falling into these traps, executives can take several pro-active steps to increase self- awareness:

  • Taking a personality test

Myers Brigg is a widely known and respected personality test. Not specific to leadership styles or business savvy, it gives a unique insight to how you function best. Myers Brigg can be done professionally or for free at

The Entrepreneurial Aptitude test was developed by Harvard Business School to help identify your strengths against key business traits: Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck. Free trial of the test is available.

Predictive Index: A behavioral predictive index that is used to scientifically validate behaviour in the workplace. This is useful for all levels of management and employees.

  • Seek and listen to creditable feedback

A 360 degree feedback is an excellent tool to get a well-rounded view of your performance, taking feedback from peers, employees and occasionally external sources.

Listen without justifying your actions

If you cannot listen without justifying your actions people will stop giving you feedback. To increase your credibility and the effectiveness of receiving feedback you need to really hear what people are saying to you. (To learn to listen better, check out these five tips:

Joining a peer mentoring group gives you valuable unbiased feedback about your business and professional life.

  • Take time for personal reflection

Reflecting on personal patterns or things that continue to repeat themselves can demonstrate problem areas and help you to fix them, Always remember to ask what could I have done differently?

Take some time today to simply reflect on your business practices, write down how you think the future three months are going to go, then revisit them after some time has passed. Use this as tool to reflect on the previous months to see what and how you could have reacted differently.

Self-awareness is a powerful business tool, which is easily accessible to you. You may find it challenging at times – especially if you don’t like the answers you find; however, the benefits for you and your business greatly outweighs the temporary discomfort to yourself and the risk to your company of ignoring this process.


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