Self-Awareness Can Help Leaders More Than an MBA Can

Earlier this year, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) published the article, “Self-Awareness Can Help Leaders More Than an MBA Can.” It features a short case story of an executive who turned a company around financially, yet morale waned significantly. He was “crushed.”

“How could they (employees) say these things about me? Don’t they understand how far we’ve come under my leadership?

“My ego had run amok. I was leading from my head and not from my heart.”

HBR writes, “Self-awareness is not part of the standard curriculum in most management education programs. The majority of MBA degrees focus on strategy and spreadsheets …

“Approximately 40% of CEOs are MBAs. Many large-scale studies have found that leadership based solely on MBA-trained logic is not always enough for delivering long-term financial and cultural results, and that it is often detrimental to an organization’s productivity …

“To be clear, we’re not saying MBAs are not useful in leading an organization. But if the linear MBA-trained logic becomes the sole focus — at the cost of other skills, like self-awareness and understanding others and the culture — the leadership approach is out of balance.”

“Bill George, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School, and former CEO of Medtronic, says that self-awareness is the starting point of leadership. Self-awareness is the skill of being aware of our thoughts, emotions, and values from moment to moment. Through self-awareness, we can lead ourselves with authenticity and integrity — and in turn better lead others and our organizations.”

Self-awareness can be developed and improved. Here are a few ways HBR recommends:

  • Adopt a Daily Mindfulness Practice
  • Take Regular Breaks
  • Pay Real Attention to What Others Say

Organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich advises asking “what, not why”.

“Why traps us in the rearview mirror. What moves us forward.

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