For almost two decades now, I’ve kept an ongoing document entitled, “Words to Live By,” wherein I memorialize quotes, verses, axioms, aphorisms, proverbs, metaphors, analogies and various tidbits of wisdom that strike me and ones that I feel may be useful to me, my family or my clients at a future point. This discipline expanded my interest in reading and learning and it is a well that I go to for the quenching of my intellectual thirst. More importantly, though, this discipline helps me to know myself. “Know thyself” is a phrase that traces back to ancient Greece, or beyond, as it was apparently chiseled into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and been attributed to a long line of philosophers. The gift of knowing yourself today is no less significant. As you know yourself, you become a better leader and, I would contend, a better person.
The act of wrestling with knowing yourself may provide you with enlightenment about what you love, what you are good at, where you need some work (the good stuff!!) and, paradoxically, the needs of those around you. Our emotional intelligence and empathy ratchets up as we explore ourselves and challenge ourselves and push ourselves to be learners and not knowers. Further, self reflection creates a humility that flows over to our relationships and our organizations in a way that can be productive in creating high performance environments where we tolerate mistakes and learning because that is where the growth and wisdom happen. My experience with leaders over the last three decades yields the conclusion that leaders who spend material time learning about themselves build cultures that engage people and teams because … we are ALL on the way and in progress.
So, how can thyself be better at knowing thyself (little Austin Powers reference there)? A few quick hits that might be helpful:
What are you reading? I ask this question often of my leadership clients. Reading is a portal into the synchronous and asynchronous worlds that push us to learn and grow in our self awareness and self-knowledge and to share with our teams.
Thinkin’ Time. Yep, its just what it sounds like. Don’t scoff, either. I am not sure there is a better use of a leader’s time than to think critically about their organization and themselves as leaders. Put it on your calendar.
Ask questions of yourself and others about yourself: Am I being honest with myself? Am I holding on to the sunk cost fallacy or some other bias? Where do I need to be better? How can I help?
To permanent beta!! To knowing thyself!!