3 Practical Disciplines To Help Leaders Grow in Self-Awareness

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Reggie McNeil says, “The single most important piece of information a leader possesses is self-awareness.”[1]  Self-Awareness could be defined as a conscious knowledge of our own character, feelings, motives, and desires. When left unchecked a lack of self-awareness in these areas can be debilitating to your ministry and destructive to your life.

The discipline of self-awareness is a leader’s intentional pursuit for self-understanding.

Here are 3 practical disciplines to help leaders grow in self-awareness:

1. Cultivate friendships. With so many “one anotherpassages in the New Testaments, we understand clearly the early church teaching on the necessity of Christian Community. Early on in ministry, I received well-meaning, but ill-advised counsel, “If you are going to be the pastor, you really cannot have friendships in the church.” I am consistently surprised by the level of loneliness and lack of deep friendships found in pastors and planters. You cannot grow in self-awareness apart from gospel-centered friendships. How are you intentionally pursuing deep and meaningful friendships?

2. Invite someone to adjust your self-perception. This is a humbling assignment for three reasons. First, you are acknowledging your own propensity to see yourself in a favorable light. Second, you are inviting someone to critique you. Third, you recognize you are broken leader in desperate need of transformation.

We can easily become blinded to what everyone else sees clearly. It is difficult to lead effectively when those you lead perceive you differently than you perceive yourself. Who has permission to adjust your self-perception?

3. Take a personality/leadership assessment. The best $26.95 I ever spent was on the Leading from Your Strengths Assessment. This easy to understand and practical leadership assessment tool is invaluable in creating healthy self-awareness. I will never forget the surprised/not really surprised feeling I had when I read, “George likes people, but can be seen occasionally as cold and blunt. He may have his mind on project results, and sometimes may not take the time to be empathetic toward others.”

Sadly, because I lacked the self-awareness to understand how others might perceive me, the early years of ministry consisted of me justifying my passion and personality while leaving a wake of hurt and offended people.

Pursuing the discipline of self-awareness calls us to look to Christ as our example as we deal with our character, feelings, motives, and desires. The fruit of healthy gospel-centered self-awareness will always be people seeing more of Christ and less of you. Do people see Christ in you?

[1] McNeal, Reggie. Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) (Kindle Locations 318-319). Wiley. Kindle Edition.