Leadership for a Lifetime: Self-Awareness

When you look at yourself in the mirror, whom do you see? Is the image clear or blurry? Do you like what you see or wish you could have a makeover? Are you a kitten who sees a lion or a lion who sees a kitten?

Unfortunately, most of us lack a complete and accurate understanding of ourselves because our perception is distorted through our own biased lens. Each one of us is filled with valuable treasure, but for many it lies buried beneath the surface, waiting to be revealed. I daresay this is true for most adults, but it’s especially so with adolescents. Unfortunately, they’re making fundamental, life-changing decisions without truly understanding themselves.  We call this essential leadership quality self-awareness.

When it comes right down to it, teens and young adults are trying to answer these fundamental questions at this stage of life: 1) who am? 2) what do I have to offer? and 3) what are my opportunities? The first two get at the heart of their identity… their value proposition to the world. It’s vital that they get these answers right because they will heavily shape their future.

Within each and every person, there is a treasure of talent, qualities, assets, and skills. How would you like to mine that treasure in you? How about the treasure in your students, children, and others around you? How can you develop a clearer understanding of yourself and the tremendous value you have to offer—and help others do the same?

Here’s one way: Knowing that self awareness comes through self discovery and affirmation from others, we’ve developed a personal leadership assignment you can access here. It not only helps you assess your own unique assets/strengths, but it also captures the invaluable perspectives of others who know you well and have your best interests at heart. As you complete this project, you’ll have a much more complete and accurate perspective of…You!

Briefly, your assets fall into several categories:

  • Foundational Assets:
    • Physical: strength, speed, agility, dexterity
    • Mental: intelligence, reasoning, creativity, subject specific
    • Behavioral: personality, attitude, emotional intelligence
    • Spiritual: faith, values, inspirational experiences
  • Relational Assets:
    • Support System: companionship, security, love from others
    • Network: pool of personal and professional ambassadors
  • Aspirational Assets:
    • Experiential: credentials, life skills, service, leadership
    • Interests: knowledge pursuits, recreational, leisure
    • Passions and Dreams: desires, causes, purpose, impact

The power of gaining input from others as you inventory your strengths cannot be overstated. They will call out perspectives you either never realized or never fully appreciated. Remember the later scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when the Wizard honored the Scarecrow with a degree, the Tin Man with a heart, and the Cowardly Lion with a badge of courage? Each of them always had smarts, kindness, and courage, but it took someone else to reveal it for them to believe it!

Great leaders are self aware and lead from their strengths. They have an intuitive grasp of their uniqueness and value and how to offer it to others. Then they align their lives accordingly.

So, what are your greatest strengths? A commitment to self awareness will help you identify and develop them—and use them in a way that brings joy to you and is a benefit to the world!

Leadership for a Lifetime: Intentionality

“The quality of your commitments will determine the course of your life.” – Ralph Marston

Everyone has a dream—or at least, they should! The question is, will that dream become a reality? Success doesn’t come easily and dreams don’t automatically come true. It takes hard work and proactivity.

What makes the difference between a dreamer and an achiever? One key attribute is a leadership quality we call intentionality. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Being active versus passive
  • Setting goals
  • Staying focused
  • Managing our time wisely
  • Demonstrating self-discipline

People who live intentionally are self-aware. They know what they want to accomplish and are mindful of anything that might interfere. They take responsibility for their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.  They consistently take action to ensure their lives are purposeful and on track.

One thing I (Arlyn) have noticed about intentional people is that they “act on” their circumstances rather than allowing their circumstances to act upon them.  They don’t just drift through life; they approach it pro-actively. They initiate, rather than simply respond.

For young adults, especially those whose decisions have been mostly made for them by authority figures, becoming intentional is a paradigm shift. They need to think of themselves as the responsible party for their life; i.e., by moving into the driver’s seat from the passenger’s seat. Depending on their upbringing, it’s not always easy.

As educators, parents, and mentors, we can help young adults understand that every day of our life is filled with choices, and WE are responsible for how we approach those decisions: Will you try something new or stick with the status quo? Will you follow through on yesterday’s decisions or get distracted by today’s new ideas? Will you associate with people who inspire and encourage you, or who negatively influence you and drag you down? Every decision either puts us one step closer to our dreams, or moves us a step away.

Intentional people are goal oriented and chart a course straight for it. They aren’t swayed by naysayers or distractions.  They find a passion bigger than themselves and take the practical actions necessary on a daily basis to accomplish it. They don’t just have a vision, they pursue their vision relentlessly!

Encourage the young adults in your life to live with vision and intentionality.  Ask them, “What’s your vision? How are you charting a course to accomplish it? Are you intentionally making decisions that will keep you focused and on track?”

And while you’re at it, ask yourself the same questions!  We can all improve our commitment to living with intentionality. The best way to start is to write down your vision, and then set near- and longer-term goals to fulfill it. Manage your time according to your priorities. Stay focused and don’t let distractions sidetrack you.

We live in a tech-y world dominated by constant connectivity and stimulation. Can we discipline ourselves to use technology for our good, and not let it dominate our life, thoughts, and time? Intentional people control technology rather than the other way around.

Finally, intentional people learn from observing other intentional people. So, look around you. Who out there is living the kind of life you want to live, or shares your purpose and vision? Ask them to share their wisdom and experiences and any practical principles that can help you achieve your goals. Why reinvent the wheel?  Besides, the journey is always easier—and more fun—when (intentionally) shared with others!