Self-Awareness and Self-Development in HRM
Leadership, as it manifests in companies today, has evolved greatly from a century ago. Indeed, with the development of sciences such as psychology and sociology, business people have begun to recognize the importance of the human element not only in office relationships, but also in the specific arena of leadership. From the industrial era, in which leadership was essentially brutal work, bordering on slave driver, this role has changed to take a different form today. Today, leaders are expected to show an understanding not only of basic psychological concepts, but also of each individual within their companies. A somewhat new trend among leaders today has been that leaders also need to display an essential understanding of themselves. As such, a leader can improve his or her leadership efforts greatly by means of a deeper understanding of the self by means of self-awareness and continuous self-development. The leadership literature appears to support this by an increasing focus on a focus on the self within leadership in order to improve not only the leader and subordinates but to also improve the cohesive actions of both for the benefit of the company and its future.
In this vein, Williams (n.d.) notes that human beings tend towards complexity and diversity. This necessitates an individual’s drive towards developing an understanding of the self before others can be understood effectively. This is particularly important for leaders. The author suggests that leaders need to cultivate an understanding of their own “personality traits, personal values, habits, emotions, and psychological needs,” since these tend to drive a person’s behavior. It has been well established that a leader’s behavior would necessarily influence the behavior of subordinates.
By understanding the mentioned aspects of the self, leaders can therefore cultivate a better interpersonal understanding and ultimately create a more effective leader-follower relationship within the workplace.
Musselwhite (2007) confirms that self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies. Self-awareness means that the leader understand not only his or her strengths, but also the areas that yet need improvement. Indeed, it provides an important component of authentic leadership that is absent from those leaders who will not acknowledge their own mistakes and shortcomings. The author points out that, even though the general drive among leaders is to appear flawless, this creates a false sense of competence. Followers tend to have more respect for leaders who acknowledge their own humanity, thus creating a platform of partnership from which to manage the company together with their followers rather than ahead of them. Indeed, Musselwhite notes that each leader should take responsibility, even for those situations in which they are less than perfect, in order to benefit both themselves and their organizations.
One important component of self-awareness and self-development, according to Musselwhite, is to solicit information from subordinates to determine the areas that still need improvement. As such, Judge and Kammeyer-Mueller (2011, p. 332) call for an understanding of the human factor within organizations rather than the more traditional hierarchy of roles. They note that the evolution of organizations have come to necessitate a focus on understanding the inner psychological dynamic between employer and employee. Hence, leaders need to cultivate employees who are able to act independently in order to possibly become leaders themselves, as creators of their own destiny within their respective work environments.
As such, leaders are to focus not only on themselves and their own development. In fact, their sense of self-awareness and self-development need to occur in tandem with the development of employees and the company as a collective effort by both employers and employees to develop themselves and others (Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, 2010). Indeed, the interaction of the team and its leaders need to result in a development of the collective team’s self-awareness and self-development
This is not without its challenges. Indeed, Ratwani, Zaccaro and Geller (2010, p. 395) note that the work demands of today’s business environment are increasingly complex, in addition to the now-recognized complexity of the human psyche. This creates additional challenges in identifying the skills leaders need to create an optimal business environment. Furthermore, skill needs are not static; just like the business environment is subject to continual changes, so the leader’s responses to these are in continual flux. There is therefore no particular set of tools or skills a leader needs to handle specific leadership situations. This makes self-awareness particularly important from a leadership point-of-view, since leaders need to be flexible to match the flexible environment within which they operate.
Perhaps one of the most important traits in this regard, as Walumbwa et al. (2011) note, is confidence. Having confidence in one’s ability to drive the actions and changes necessary within a particular business environment is a key factor in creating confidence in one’s followers as well. Indeed, mutual trust is created by mutual confidence. This can only be effectively cultivated by not only understanding one’s own inner self, but also an understanding of how this creates a dynamic among all the employees and associates within the business world and the nature of the business itself.
The current focus on leadership therefore focuses not only on how leaders can become more effective in the workplace, but also how they can become more effective by driving change within themselves (Avolio, Walumbwa and Weber, 2009, p. 425).
A better understanding of themselves would help leaders to also better understand how they influence others.
This leads to the concept of leadership examined by Algera and Lips-Wiersma (2012), which is the concept known as authentic leadership. This concept is itself problematic because there is no single specific definition of what it means to be an “authentic” leader. Instead, the concept is somewhat vague, in that it requires leaders to be true to their own values and the values put forward by the company. There is, however, no consistent ideal regarding what such values should constitute.
This is also an area within which a strong self-concept can help. Individual leaders need to examine both their own personal values, the values of the company, and what needs to be done to maintain these values. The process of self-concept and self-development can therefore be set up in such a way as to improve the leader’s ability to lead the company effectively and a with a focus on core values.
In this vein, Adhia, Nagendra and Mahadevan (2010) have even gone as far as suggesting that yoga may help in developing leaders in a more effective way to lead their companies effectively. At the core of the study conducted by these authors is the idea that the universal consciousness is united with the individual consciousness, hence improving the individual’s ability to connect with others while improving his or her own self-awareness.
In conclusion, the literature appears consistent in terms of suggesting that individual leaders need to focus on themselves in order to create a sense of awareness and development to ultimately lead their companies to greatness. For this reason, it is highly desirable for leaders to understand psychological concepts and how these pertain to themselves. It is only by cultivating a better understanding of themselves that business leaders can be effective within their respective environments by driving change within themselves and others.
Adhia, H., Nagendra, H.R. And Mahadevan, B. (2010, March-June). Impact of adoption of yoga way of life on the emotional intelligence of managers. Science Direct. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0970389610000042
Algera, P.M., Lips-Wiersma, M. (2012). Radical Authentic Leadership: Co-creating the conditions under which all members of the organization can be authentic. The Leadership Quarterly. 23. Retrieved from: http://www.holisticdevelopment.org.nz/Media/Default/Resources/LEAQUA805.pdf
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Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. (2010, September). Getting to know you: Self-awareness is key for high-performing, adaptive teams (CAHRS Research Link No. 11). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, ILR School. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018=cahrs_researchlink
Judge, T.A. And Kammeyer-Mueller, J.D. (2011). Implications of core self-evaluations for a changing organizational context. Human Resource Management Review. 21. Retrieved from: http://timothy-judge.com/documents/ImplicationsofCSEsforachangingorgcontext.pdf
Musselwhite, C. (2007, Oct. 1). Self-Awareness and the Effective Leader. Inc. Retrieved from: http://www.inc.com/resources/leadership/articles/20071001/musselwhite.html
Ratwani, K.L., Zaccaro, S.G., and Geller, D.S. (2010). The role of developmental social networks in effective leader self-learning processes. In Self-Management and Leadership Development. Edited by Mitchell G. Rothstein and Ronald J. Burke. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.
Sony Corporation. (n.d.) Case Study: Developing a Common Language for Self-Awareness. Retrieved from: https://www.cpp.com/pdfs/Sony_Case_Study.pdf
Trotter, R.C. (2013, Oct.). The Importance of Self-Awareness. Something Different HR. Retrieved from: http://rorytrotter.com/2013/10/02/the-importance-of-self-awareness/
Walumbwa, F.O., Luthans, F., Avey, J.B., and Oke, A. (2011). Authentically leading groups: The mediating role of collective psychological capital and trust. Journal of Organizational Behavior. 32. Retrieved from: http://www.leadmore.org/
Williams, S. (n.d.) Self-Awareness and Personal Development. Raj Soin College of Business. Retrieved from: http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/self-awareness.htm