Developing Executive Self Awareness to Enhance Leadership Impact

Vicki Swisher

Lack of self-awareness among organizational leaders is pervasive and costly, according to Korn Ferry’s Vicky Swisher and Evelyn Orr.
They studied executives using the FYI: For Your Insight assessment tool, based on research from FYI for Insight: 21 Leadership Characteristics for Success and 5 That Will Get You Fired.

Evelyn Orr

Evelyn Orr

Executives’ most significant blind spots were:

• Making tough people calls,
• Demonstrating personal flexibility, adapting approaches to new circumstances.

Similarly,  the top leadership problems were:
• Not inspiring employees, not building talent,
• “Too narrow”, relying on deep expertise without broadening perspective.

Leaders vastly underestimated their effectiveness in “managing up”, suggesting that they focused more on their next promotion, rather than on developing their employees.

Joe Luft

Joe Luft

Lack of self-awareness can be reduced by using a “Reality Check” including:

o Feedback from others to provide “early warning” of difficulty.
However, this requires that evaluators are willing to provide candid observations, despite widespread discomfort in providing corrective feedback.

o Self-reflection concerning effective and ineffective behaviors, documented in a personal journal for review.

Harry Ingham

Harry Ingham

Executives learned most to enhance leadership skills and self-reflection from on-the-job experiences, distantly followed by learning from other people.
Structured trainings are least effective and most costly approaches to enhance leadership cognitive, emotional, motivational, self-awareness, and learning agility capabilities.

These leadership development processes reduce individual blind spots, portrayed by San Francisco State University’s Joe Luft and Harry Ingham of National Training Labs in The JoHari Windowjohari-window

Korn Ferry’s Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger provided additional executive development recommendations based on research in FYI: For your Improvement, A Development and Coaching Guide(3rd Edition).

-*How do you increase your self-awareness at work and reduce your “blind spots” about yourself and others?

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©Kathryn Welds


3 thoughts on “Developing Executive Self Awareness to Enhance Leadership Impact

  1. Pingback: “Derailing” Personality Measures Predict Leadership Mishaps | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

  2. Nancy Busch Rossnagel

    I find differences in self-awareness among international students studying at American universities. What cultural differences are there in executive self-awareness and how do they impact leadership development efforts?

    1. kathrynwelds Post author

      Thanks, Nancy, for your comment.

      People from collectivistic cultures may be less self-reflective than those from individualistic cultures, which emphasizes differentiated experiences.
      Stella Ting-Toomey and Leeva Chung of Purdue’s Center for Instructional Excellence provided as part of a 2013 Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication.

      Building on understanding one’s cultural identity, Ideas for Leaders linked the importance of general and cultural self-awareness with leadership skills.

      Leadership development activities in individualistic cultures are likely to require modification when applied in more communally-oriented cultures.
      In addition, general cognitive biases appear cross-culturally, so one leadership development experiences should demonstrate the pervasiveness and implications of these cognitive shortcuts.
      Leaders across cultures can benefit from experiences that increase self-awareness about culture and cognitive biases.

      Hope to learn more about your experiences and observations!


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