All Leadership Starts With Self-Awareness, Even In Finance

This article is co-written by Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg

Why are you a leader? Why do you want to become a leader? Do you know what it takes to lead? Are you enjoying being a leader? If yes, why do you enjoy it?

Are these tough questions to answer or do you find the answers with ease? We bet you that most leaders haven’t reflected deeply about the answers to these questions. Instead, they saw leadership as the best and maybe the only way to climb the corporate ladder. They saw it as an opportunity to get ahead and have a fulfilling career. But really, why did you become a leader?

Still struggling or starting to struggle to answer the question? Granted this is not an easy one but if we don’t have well thought through answers, rooted deeply in our purpose and passions then why are we doing it? It’s time. No more beating around the bush. Can you answer why you are a leader? 

The answer starts with self-awareness 

When we compare IQ (intelligence quotient) and EI or EQ (emotional intelligence), we can compare it to an iceberg with IQ being the tip sticking out above the waterline and EQ the far larger piece below the surface.

EQ is a lot more complex, and there are many more variables that affect emotional intelligence. However, one of the four core elements of EQ is self-awareness. The other elements are self-management or regulation, social awareness and social skills or relationship management. In our opinion self-awareness is the gateway to greater emotional intelligence. If you would like to understand more about EQ, read the book ‘Emotional intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman. 

Self-awareness is the state of a deep understanding of ourselves. It is having the ability to observe our behaviours, motivations, thoughts, habits feelings and emotions and to understand what drives and motivates us.

A deeper understanding of our beliefs, values, limiting self-beliefs, emotions and the thought patterns that we have. Many of our limiting self-beliefs stem from our childhood, e.g. feelings of not being good enough or feeling like you don’t belong.

Gaining a deeper understanding of ourselves is like shining a very powerful light within ourselves, gaining greater insights and then shining that light outside ourselves to lead others.

When we start to recognise patterns of behaviours in ourselves, we can spot those patterns in the people around us that we lead and interact with; creating a greater understanding and allowing us to connect with others at a deeper level to drive more effective and successful business relationships.

Often leaders are not aware of the impact that they are having on others. Sometimes it is not what they say, but how they say it, or how they come across. Having this deeper understanding will unlock your greater leadership potential and increase trust with your business partners and employees. As you reveal and share more of your true self, others will trust you more and be willing to speak up about topics that they don’t agree with or when they see things heading in the wrong direction.

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Source: ‘The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved®’ by Talita Ferreira

But how can I practically increase my self-awareness? 

The following are tools that can be used to gain this deeper understanding of self:

  • 360-degree feedback,
  • Keep a daily diary of thoughts, feelings, emotional triggers and self-reflection,
  • Ask a trusted colleague or employee (that will be honest with you) for feedback using three simple questions,
  • Take a personality or psychometric test,
  • Identify your strengths,
  • Identify your three to five core values
  • Identify your passions and your deeper purpose
  • Answer a series of self-reflective questions from ‘The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved®.’  

Let’s look closer at each of these elements and how you put them into use.

360-degree feedback: Do a full 360-degree feedback review with your peers, employees, boss or line-manager and clients or other leaders – or just ask the three simple questions. A 360 is a multi-source assessment used to gather insights about you as a leader and very often includes a self-assessment. The answers from various sources are then compared to provide the individual with a rounded picture of how other people view them. This provides valuable insights regarding your behaviours and how others see you as a leader. 

Keep a diary: Recording your thoughts and feelings daily, can provide very useful insights. Repeated emotional triggers and self-reflection on your behaviours can unlock patterns and give more meaningful insight into what is holding you back from your greater potential as a leader. 

Ask a colleague: Ask a colleague you trust and respect to share what they think you do well in the working environment and what you can improve on. There is always a difference between how we view ourselves as leaders and how others view us. Use these three simple questions:

  • What should I do more of?
  • What should I do less of and
  • What should I keep doing in the same manner? 

Personality tests: Personality and psychometric tests provide valuable insights about our preferences, styles and behaviours. These are a few DISC0 profiling, Myers- Briggs, SDI, 

Core strengths: Identifying your core strengths can help you to find out more about yourself. Take the Strengthfinder 2.0 test to find out what your five core strengths are.  

Core values: Identify your three to five core values. Assess the behaviours that you live these values through and determine if you are leading and working in congruence with these values. 

Purpose and passion: Obtain a greater understanding of what you are passionate about and how this aligns to your greater purpose. Our purpose is not merely doing a job, but rather what motivates and drives us and gives us a feeling of immense pleasure as we are adding value and making a difference. It is doing the things we love that unlock our passion. Think back to your childhood and when you lost track of time because you loved something so much. If you would like to know more about building a career that is a passion and aligns with your values and purpose, read the new book ’The Compass and the Radar’ by Paolo Gallo. 

Self-reflection: Answer the following self-reflective questions:

  • Who am I today and what has shaped me to be this person?
  • What shaped me at a deeper level?
  • What are my negative drivers/triggers?
  • What are my positive drivers?
  • What are my limiting self-beliefs?
  • Which repeat patterns of behaviour do I display?
  • Which unconscious biases do I possibly have?

Think about the following questions and ask yourself how they apply to you and your life and highlight your qualities, feelings and emotions that are unlocked by asking these questions. In the book ‘The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved®’ Talita Ferreira answers these questions from her own experience. 

All these tools help you to get a better understanding of yourself and will increase your awareness over time. 

Why is this particularly important to Finance now? 

Because we must now lead people to realise their full potential as business partners as opposed to optimising processes or (only) replacing people with tech.

Partnering effectively with the business is about a change in mindset and a behavioural change. The behavioural change is about forging deeper relationships with others to increase trust and leading people differently.

The mindset change is about committing to do things differently; to learn and adapt with our team as we go on a journey of moving away from certain behaviours and adapting our behaviours to embrace the change.

We must move away from being just a controller to more of a business advisor, moving from a silo orientated finance view focused on short term targets and results to collectively being responsible for the organisation’s long term achievements. Balancing risk and finance with what is good for the company overall and having an increased customer-centric approach with both internal and external customers.

 Finance leaders must develop a far deeper understanding of strategy and business models and adapt from cost control to a focus on how value is created for the organisation as a whole.

It is crucial to commit to this mindset, have the self-awareness to notice when we stray or go off track, holding ourselves accountable when we stray and inspiring others to follow us on this journey of change.

What should finance leaders do now to start developing more self-awareness? Commit yourself to the mindset of a true business partner, hire people with the capabilities to deliver on the new behaviors needed, use some of the tools that we have suggested to gain a greater understanding of what is holding you back from your highest potential, hold yourself accountable and recommit when you see yourself going off track.

Does all of this resonate with you? If not, why not? If yes, are you ready to get started? If not, what’s holding you back? This is a crucial step in the transformation to create a bright future for the finance function. We know it’s hard to change how you lead, but it’s a must to succeed in the future!

Finance Inspired 4 Success powered by Authentic Change Solutions

@ Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg

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