The primary goal of this qualitative research was to investigate aspects of self-awareness and the way it defines the decisions and experiences of leaders, especially when faced with various challenges in their jurisdictions. When a leader lacks self-awareness skills, their thinking can easily be distorted by deception. Studies have shown that experienced leaders have the capacity to use self-awareness to understand their environment, learn from different chaotic circumstances, and define when flexibility is needed to achieve specific goals. In this narrative study, the author focused on explaining how some experienced and successful leaders aligned their values and inner intent with actions they took in their organizations.
By examining the socially constructed reality of the selected experienced leaders, it was possible to understand whether they believe that their inner selves aligned with their actions. It is common to find cases where a leader is swayed to act in a way they consider undesirable because they lack self-awareness that would define their morals and beliefs. The study helps in addressing major knowledge gaps that exist in the field of self-awareness among leaders in different fields.
The study used a qualitative research design that defined the process of collecting and analyzing primary data collected from the sampled participants. The narrative paradigm was considered appropriate in explaining the experiences of these leaders, their journey towards self-awareness and authenticity, how it affected their decisions, and the impact it had on their organizations. One of the main features of this research design is that it uses semi-structured or unstructured questions. These questions make it possible for respondents to answer each question in detail beyond yes or no responses.
The form of questions that this design uses defines the next feature of the uniqueness of each respondent’s answer. Unlike structured questions where a respondent is expected to have a specific pattern of answering each question, semi-structured questions create room for participants to answer each question in their own words (Creswell, 2013). This nature of response means that a researcher has to transcribe the responses, within is another feature of this research design. Once information is collected from the respondents, one has to make sense of the responses before developing patterns and themes for the study. The level of detail required in this study made it necessary to use this design to achieve the objectives of the study.
The observations that stood out in this study were presented in the form of themes. The analysis identified nine themes about the leadership self-awareness process. The first theme was the subconscious behavior, a process where one makes decisions without being self-awareness. These individuals are not in control of their perceptions, thoughts, and sensations and can be influenced easily by forces within the environment.
The second theme is the lowest level of self-awareness. The study found out that individuals at this level of awareness take actions with very little self-awareness. External forces can also influence them because they are not sure about their convictions. These first two stages of self-awareness are associated with infants. The third theme is the second level of self-awareness where one can have an internal dialogue and make sense of the immediate environment.
The third level of self-awareness is characterized by the ability of an individual to conduct self-examination and that of the environment, which some scholars often refer to as private self-awareness (Burian, Burian, Maffei, & Pieffer, 2014). One starts to develop emotions, values, sensations, goals, motives, and perceptions. They get to understand the consequences of their actions and the relevance of embracing morality.
This stage is known as meta-self-awareness. They can define opinion over an issue based on specific principles. The study holds that successful leaders exhibit Meta self-awareness. They know what they want and how they can achieve it based on specific principles. These leaders know how to influence followers to embrace their principles and beliefs towards a given path, especially in cases of crisis where quick and emphatic decisions are needed. They are always ready to stand by their decisions and deal with consequences arising from their actions.
Self-deception was another emerging theme. Self-deception refers to ignorance or the inability to acknowledge one’s core values. In such cases, an individual may easily make a decision that may harm personal reputations or self-beliefs just to please people around them. Authenticity was another common theme. Unlike the case of self-deception, authentic individuals have a deep self-awareness of their behavior and are often committed to achieving specific goals, which are aligned with their convictions. They cannot be swayed easily to make decisions that go against their beliefs. The manifestation of deceptive behavior was another theme in this study.
While those with limited self-awareness engage in self-deception to please others, those who have mastered the concept of self-awareness deceive others to ensure that decisions made are in line with their personal beliefs. They are committed to aligning their decisions and actions with their values and beliefs. The last theme focused on feedback, the way different people process it, and how it defines one’s values.
The findings also revealed the significance of authentic leadership as a theory that defines one’s behavior. This theory emphasizes the need to build leadership legitimacy by having an honest and ethical relationship with followers and to value their input. Authentic leaders tend to be positive individuals who promote openness within their organization (Luthra & Dahiya, 2015). As shown in figure 1 below, moral reasoning and positive psychology in critical life events are the basis of authentic leadership. They make it possible for one to have internalized moral perspective and self-awareness. They also promote balanced processing and relational transparency. These qualities are key attributes for one to achieve success as a leader in the current competitive business and socio-political environments.
The study has provided insights that I can put into use as a leader in my organization. One of the main insights is the danger of self-deception. When one has a limited self-awareness, it is easy for them to be manipulated to act in a self-destructive way. As explained in the study, these individuals end up deceiving themselves that their actions are justified, while in reality, they are harming their reputation. It is apparent that one of the greatest threats to successful leadership is limited self-awareness. As such, I have learned that the path to becoming a successful leader start’s with self-awareness. One must understand what they desire, how they can influence others to support their views, and systems that can make it happen.
The study has also enabled me to understand the relevance of authentic leadership. As explained in the paper, one can only become an authentic leader if they have attained the level of meta-self-awareness. At this stage, one develops a set of values and beliefs and is rarely willing to compromise them in every action they take. These leaders will often take time to explain their views to their followers to ensure that there is a shared dream instead of manipulating them or taking advantage of their limited self-awareness (Amanchukwu , Stanley, & Ololube, 2015).
This approach to leadership stresses the relevance of self-awareness and internalized moral perspective. It also holds in high regard balanced processing and relational transparency as virtues that an authentic leader should embrace. I intend to apply these traits in every action I take as I strive to embrace the concept of transformational leadership.
The study warns against embracing deceptive behavior in an organizational setting. Some leaders who have mastered the concept of self-awareness often take advantage of the weaknesses of their followers to manipulate them for personal gains. I have learned to avoid such traits because of their short-term gratitude and long-term consequences. Deception may help an individual to get what they desire, but when the truth comes out, the consequences may have crippling effects.
An authentic manager cannot afford to lie to business associates, employees, and other relevant stakeholders because when the truth is revealed, they would lose the moral authority to lead. In such cases, it becomes almost impossible for such a person to be trusted. When trust is gone, one loses the ability to guide others towards a given path. There will be a constant fear that there is a hidden agenda even when one is sincere. I intend to embrace these lessons in my private and professional life.
Amanchukwu , R. N., Stanley, G. J., & Ololube, N. P. (2015). A review of leadership theories, principles, styles, and their relevance to educational management. Management, 5(1): 6-14.
Burian, P. E., Burian, P. S., Maffei, F. R., & Pieffer, M. A. (2014). Principles driven leadership: thoughts, observations, and conceptual model. International Journal of Management & Information Systems, 18(1), 1-10.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Fei, X. (2015). Globalization and cultural self-awareness. Heidelberg, Germany: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.
Luthra, A., & Dahiya, R. (2015). Effective leadership is all about communicating effectively: Connecting Leadership and Communication. International Journal of Medical and Biomedical Studies, 5(3), 43-47.