Leading through self-awareness

Leadership and Management Certification Series

Table of Contents

How do you inspire others? Start by understanding how to inspire yourself. When you understand your strengths and weaknesses, you can better predict how you’ll respond to situations—allowing you to take smarter action. This insight also applies to how you interact with your employees.

Below, you’ll learn how to use behavioral data to identify your leadership tendencies. Then you’ll learn how to tailor those tendencies to better suit your employees.

Leadership types.

Great leaders are aware of their capabilities and their blind spots, and they continuously develop themselves to maximize the former and minimize the latter. The first step is to understand how you naturally lead. That insight will allow you to be conscientious about your employees and how to relate to and inspire them individually.

One of the best ways to build self-awareness is with people data. This might look like a 360 assessment, which gathers and collates feedback from supervisors, colleagues, and direct reports. The 360 can help you understand how you’re currently perceived as a leader—but it doesn’t tell you how you’re naturally wired to lead or what your natural leadership strengths are. A workplace behavioral assessment can help you understand what drives and motivates you at work, as well as how that influences how you lead.

Try it out! This activity will teach you the leadership styles and their behaviors.

You might have noticed that the leaders in the activity above have a dominant leadership style but also have tendencies related to other styles. For example, Rosie may be a cultivating leader, which means she’s naturally driven to mentor her employees. That doesn’t mean she will never take risks or innovate, as defined by exploring leaders. 

Before you can determine your leadership style, you need to understand your natural drives and needs. Let’s consider an example. Janet is a new manager. She takes the PI Behavioral Assessment™, and her results show that she’s cooperative, easy-going, and generally won’t “rock the boat.” Because Janet’s easygoing, her team feels comfortable coming to her with problems they’re facing so they can troubleshoot together. This helps team members feel supported and understood. However, Janet’s tendency to not want to “rock the boat” may limit her ability to push concerns up the chain of command. Janet can mitigate this by putting processes in place that force her to overcome tendencies to shy away from tougher conversations.

Just like Janet, you can use behavioral assessment data to determine your natural leadership style’s strengths and weaknesses.

Tailor your leadership style.

Why does knowing yourself matter when it comes to leading others? Whether it’s delegation, feedback, or communication in general, how you operate impacts how your employees interact with you. Don’t believe us? A survey of more than 5,000 employees reported that 99.9% of employees felt that good managers are self-aware.

But self-awareness alone won’t improve your leadership. You have to put that awareness into action. This includes understanding how to manage employees who might not have the same style as you. Every person is unique, and your leadership should be tailored to make sure you’re getting the most out of your team. For example, if you’re an exploring leader who’s pushing for a large change from your team, it’s likely you’ll have some employees eager to jump on board. However, those with a stabilizing style might need more time to process the change or require a more in-depth explanation of why this change is vital to the company. Below are some additional examples of common leadership adjustments you might need to make when working with diverse personalities.


Some people will want to talk things through on the spot where others might want it in writing first to process.

Setting goals

Some people might need more clarity around expectations where others might just need a high level idea.


Some people work better independently. Consider how work can be delegated in a manner that might fit the team's preferences better.

These actions might not always be clear, though. The PI Management Strategy Guide offers effective ways to interact with, encourage, and delegate tasks to each employee. These practical insights will help build rapport with your team, ultimately leading to better performance. Because each employee is unique, we suggest you sit down with each employee and confirm they prefer these strategies, then come up with a plan on how you can improve the way you work together. Consider everything from what they need to succeed and how you might be a blocker or successful in leading them. Below is an example of aligning with your employees and how understanding their behavioral drives can help.

Try it out! 

Communicate with the team in mind.

We’ve talked about how awareness impacts your actions. What about your expression? Whether you’re in a 1:1 or team meeting, how you communicate impacts the effectiveness of the message. And this isn’t just about verbal communication. Non-verbal cues are important as well. Ask the following questions on the right to see how self-aware you really are.

Am I aware of the non-verbal cues (e.g. body language) I give to the people I work with?

Am I aware of my tone of voice when I’m speaking to others in the workplace?

Do I defer judgment and allow others to finish their thoughts before responding?

Do I practice active listening when interacting with others?

Your communication style might not always fit your employees. Rather than pushing employees to adapt to your personal communication style, see how you can accommodate their needs. If you’re a detail-oriented person, for example, you might type up a step-by-step email. This approach may work great for detail-oriented individuals but be overwhelming to others. For those who require less detail, a simple solution may be to include a “tl;dr” (too long, didn’t read) section at the top of the email. Tools like PI Team Work Styles allow you to see how your team communicates and allow you to adjust your style to meet the needs of the team. Use the wheel below to see different communication styles and tips around working with each.

Try it out! 

Always learn.

Like many things in life, self-awareness takes time and practice to get better at. But having the drive to always improve and grow will lead you in the right direction. The fact that you’re participating right now is a great sign! Just because you’re leading a team and encouraging them to grow doesn’t mean it’s time for you to stop.

Always find ways to improve when interacting with your team. During your 1:1s, start asking what you can do to improve as a manager, rather than just considering what the employee can change. Hold yourself accountable for these actions. During the next 1:1, explain the steps you took to improve based on that feedback. Not only does this help you grow, but it also builds trust with your team.

Take some time to review the different leadership styles below. Then try taking or reviewing your behavioral assessment to better understand what behavioral tendencies you have and start building your self-awareness today!

Effective leaders innovate and take risks. They’re quick to connect with others, comfortable with risk, proactive, and informal.

Effective leaders mentor and facilitate. They’re people-oriented, causal with rules, responsive, and informal.

Effective leaders coordinate and organize. They’re cautious with risk, responsive, formal, and take time to connect with others.

Effective leaders are demanding and tough. They’re task-oriented, careful with rules, proactive, and formal

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