Self-awareness in authentic leader development in a South African state-owned company
Nair, Ravindra Soobramoney
Self-awareness is the most critical attribute in the development of authentic leaders, as a leader’s true self is lived out in the workplace through their thoughts, actions and body language (Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, May, & Walumba, 2005). Specific coaching aimed at feedback interpretation and behavioural modelling is highly effective in developing self-awareness (Luthan & Suzanne, 2003). The focus of the research was to determine whether self-awareness is important for effective leaders and to explore the enhancers and obstacles in the development of self-awareness. A qualitative approach was followed, whereby 16 future leaders who were part of a leadership development programme, that included executive coaching, were interviewed through semi-structured interviews, and their responses thematically analysed, resulting in 14 themes related to self-awareness being identified. A key finding was that these future leaders embraced the traits of authentic leaders, focused on their people in particular, and confirmed that self-awareness is critical to effective leadership. Another key finding was that these future leaders developed skills to regulate their behaviour, as they became conscious of how their life’s journey and their thoughts and feelings shape their actions and behaviour in the workplace. The significant obstacles to self-awareness development identified were conditioned upbringing, processing and dealing with feedback, and feelings for introverts. The significant enhancers to self-awareness development identified were tough upbringing, self-determination, life’s set-backs, spouse and family, storytelling, coaching, reading, spirituality, and religion. The implications for those who experienced obstacles to self-awareness development are that they took longer to develop their self-awareness than others on the same programme. The implications for those who experienced enhancers to self-awareness development are that these future leaders developed their self-awareness before the programme, outside of the programme and after the leadership development programme. It is recommended that before an assessment is done on self-awareness and a self-awareness development intervention such as coaching is undertaken, a leader undergoes a readiness assessment to develop self-awareness. This readiness assessment should identify and deal with any potential obstacles, and harness existing enhancers to the development of self-awareness. A leader could discuss their 360-degree assessment as well as their readiness assessment with their coach. The trusting relationship between leader and coach could assist the leader process and deal with any negative feedback. The coach in turn can assist the leader to interpret these assessments and set goals to develop the leader’s self-awareness. This research provides young future leaders with a reference to reflect on their inner-selves and their impact on others through their self-awareness.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Management in Business and Executive Coaching Wits Business School, Johannesburg February 2017
Nair, Ravindra Soobramoney (2017) Self-awareness in authentic leader development in a South African state-owned company, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <http://hdl.handle.net/10539/23063>