The Four Archetypes of Self-Awareness

Your Snapshot

A quick synthesis of this issue to share

  • Internal self-awareness refers to understanding yourself and being in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. External self-awareness involves knowing your impact on others and how they view you.
  • Developing self-awareness involves tactics such as reflective practice, mindful communication, seeking feedback, and observing reactions, leading to better collaboration, trust-building, and improved understanding of oneself and others.
  • Bridging the gap in self-awareness requires external forces like peer support through coaching and observation, providing objective feedback and revealing areas for improvement, ultimately fostering an environment of learning, growth, and innovation within teams.

The Four Archetypes of Self-Awareness

This week, we explore self-awareness as a critical leadership capability. Dr Tasha Eurich, an author and organisational psychologist, defines self-awareness across two domains.

Internal self-awareness refers to understanding yourself and being in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. External self-awareness involves knowing your impact on others and how they view you.

Let’s explore these in more detail.

Understanding Internal self-awareness

how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others.

A lack of internal self-awareness can have negative consequences for educational leaders. It may result in poor decision-making, difficulty managing emotions, and an inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Leaders with low internal self-awareness may struggle to understand their own motivations or overlook what matters to them. They may be less effective in guiding their teams or organisations towards success.

Here are a few tactics in the educational leadership context to cultivate internal self-awareness.

Reflective Practice: Block time in your calendar (invite yourself to a meeting!) for regular reflection on your experiences, decisions, and interactions. Processing time helps us identify behavioural patterns and surface insights into our motivations and reactions.

Mindful Communication: I know you hear this all the time, but the quality of your listening capability adds immense value across both domains of self-awareness. When engaging with colleagues, students, and parents, focus on how your thoughts spring up and your physical and emotional response.

Grasping External self-awareness

understanding how other people view us in terms of those same factors listed above. Our research shows that people who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives.

A lack of external self-awareness can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and conflicts. For someone with low external self-awareness, challenging their views and inviting feedback is an essential behaviour often missing. Leaders unaware of how others perceive them may struggle to build trust, foster collaboration, or effectively manage their teams.

A few ideas that push us into grasping external self-awareness include:

Seek Feedback: Actively request kind, specific and helpful feedback from colleagues, students, and parents. Encourage them to share their honest opinions about your ideas and decisions or how you communicated with them. Invite precise perspectives by explaining how you perceive something and asking if this aligns with their view.

Observe Reactions: Pay attention to the non-verbal cues and reactions of others during interactions. This can provide valuable insights into how your words and actions are received. Notice when the response differs from anticipated, and stay curious about why.

Bridging the gap in self-awareness

One of the curiosities and contradictions about becoming more self-aware is how it may be hidden from those who need it the most. How do I become more aware if I am not aware?

Another mental helps us untangle this contradictory loop, the Conscious Competence Model.

You might recall we move through levels of incompetence and competence, either conscious or unconscious. You can see the link here with awareness. The key to unlocking the transition from unconscious to conscious is a provocation from a peer, event or experience.

We sometimes need an external force to help us realise the gap in our capability, competence or, in our case today, self-awareness. So a key tactic for bridging the gap in awareness is peer support.

Peer coaching: Partner with a trusted colleague or peer who can provide objective feedback on your performance, decision-making, or leadership style. Engage in regular coaching sessions to discuss successes, challenges, and areas for improvement.

Peer observation: Observe each other’s work or leadership practices and provide constructive feedback. This can help identify strengths and areas for improvement that may not be apparent from self-reflection alone.

By building a solid foundation based on these elements, the team can create an environment where disagreement is not seen as a threat but as an opportunity to learn, grow, and innovate.

Your Next Steps

Commit to action and turn words into works

  • Take the tactics mentioned for cultivating internal self-awareness, such as reflective practice and mindful communication, and integrate them into your daily routine.
  • Implement the ideas for grasping external self-awareness, such as seeking feedback and observing reactions, in your interactions with colleagues, students, and parents.
  • Embrace peer support as a means of bridging the gap in self-awareness by initiating peer coaching or engaging in peer observation.

Your Talking Points

Lead a team dialogue with these provocations

  • Encourage team members to reflect on their own levels of self-awareness and discuss how it influences their leadership and interactions with others.
  • Ask team members to share their experiences with internal and external self-awareness, including any challenges or effective strategies.
  • Discuss the benefits of peer support in promoting self-awareness and explore opportunities for peer coaching or observation within the team.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Still curious? Explore some further readings

  • What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It) [Dr Tasha Eurich, HBR] “In this piece, the author describes a recent large-scale investigation that shed light on some of the biggest roadblocks, myths, and truths about what self-awareness really is — and what it takes to cultivate it.”
  • The “I” of the Beholder: What Is the Self? [The Marginalian] Annemarie Roeper considers the origin and nature of identity and of the self as it relates to developmental psychology and our formative years.
  • Practised Non-Judgementalism [Tom Barrett] The reason non-judgment is used is because left alone, the brain will automatically judge things as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, important or unimportant, urgent or non-urgent and so on. This happens so fast that our experiences are automatically coloured right when we get to them, so mindfulness is about being aware of that and taking a fresh perspective.

Source Credit:

Newsletter Dialogic #317 Leadership, learning, innovation by Tom Barrett