Last week I attended a breakfast meeting of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). How I came to be at that meeting is an interesting story of connection but you’ll have to wait to hear that one. What stood out for me at that meeting is hearing, yet again, a theme that has been playing in my consciousness in recent months.
The topic of the meeting was a panel discussion on “Moderating Board Performance and Composition” and in the midst of the discussion came this gem from one of the panelists “self-awareness is critical for effective leadership.” I quickly jotted this down thinking that if an expert on advising Boards and their members is stating this, shouldn’t we all be listening? At the highest level of corporate leadership, amidst talk of governance and board performance, of benchmarks and feedback, is this the concept that needs to be emphasized? It is a bit touchy-feely isn’t it?
Test me on this. Type “self-awareness and leadership” into your browser. I got 12,300,000 results in 29 seconds, many for articles dated within the last year. Is this the newest trend in developing as a leader?
A little research will show that it is most certainly not. Here are a few other gems, from centuries long past…
“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
“No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself. No man is free who cannot command himself.”
“The first thing you have to know is yourself. A man who knows himself can step outside himself and watch his own reactions like an observer.”
― Adam Smith
We all know that the human race gets to learn the same lessons over and over again. The fundamentals do not change, simply the environment does and the realm in which we operate. From the days of cave dwelling to now, knowing one’s self has not only been key for leadership, it has been critical for survival. In our advanced world we believe we can bypass this stage and simply get to the doing and the execution. That we have advanced so far that these basic tenets are simply part of us, and they are. What remains for each of us to do is the hard work of discovering who we are.