Do you know yourself well enough to be an effective leader?

Leadership Psychology Skill #1: Know Yourself Well

Knowing yourself, and knowing the forces that affect the people who work for you, holds the key to being a successful leader.” ~ Kenneth M. Settel, MD, Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, CEO Psychology: Who Rises, Who Falls and Why (RosettaBooks, 2012)

The very character traits that peg you as a high-potential leader may also prevent you from making it to the finish line. Every strength has a downside when carried to the extreme. Self-awareness can prevent self-sabotage.

Here are a few examples of personality traits with their positive and negative sides, from Dr. Rick Brinkman in his book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand.



You probably have a sense of your personal talents and liabilities. Learning how to leverage them at work—amplifying your strengths, while minimizing your weaknesses—sets the stage for good interpersonal relationships. You’ll become less vulnerable and sensitive to criticism. You’ll also learn more about your leadership constitution:

  • Do you have the drive, personality and desire necessary to shouldering executive responsibilities?
  • Can you cope with the associated stressors and the job’s highs and lows?

Even the strongest, most talented leaders have flaws. Each of us is driven by conscious and unconscious forces that must be channeled into positive outcomes, so it’s important to seek personal development opportunities at every stage of your career. You won’t gain self-knowledge in a vacuum, so consider working with a mentor or experienced leadership coach.

Let me challenge you with this: if you were to sit down and write out your personality traits and then list a couple of ways it shows up as a strength and as a weakness, would you be able to do it? Do you know yourself well?

Try this exercise, and if you have questions, drop me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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