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Self-awareness, essential for effective leadership

Willem Vonk, 27 years old and a master's student in psychology, wrote a thesis about his high school romance. Unfortunately, his feelings of love dissolved after some time. In his eyes, the girl gradually lost her independence. Willem noticed that he was increasingly determining what the couple did or did not do.

Willem's psychology teacher asked him to accompany him. He wondered how Willem contributed to the imbalance that was creeping in. But Willem did not understand the question immediately.

The teacher stated, questioning, that surely Willem always had the last word and gave his advice unrequested. Willem's girlfriend probably didn’t understand ‘anything about it,’ he was always right anyway... Wasn't he?

Only then did the penny finally drop....

Willem took his first steps towards self-awareness.

This telling example originates from the article 'Self-awareness can improve relationships. Here are tips to build it.' from the Washington Post, November 26, 2022.

Self-awareness is a form of EQ: emotional intelligence. It is an essential aspect of long-term effective leadership.

Self-awareness does not mean showing off as proud as a peacock the belief that you think you are magnificent. Self-awareness in the sense of creating a - more or less - realistic portrayal of yourself. With many deficiencies and some strengths. Think of it as a never-ending walk, a quest that you are making with yourself.

An essential feature of leadership. The insight that you cannot learn enough about who you are as a person, as well as how you come across to those around you. Leaders are only effective for a long time if they possess exceptional communication skills. Skills that come from self-awareness. In modesty.

It is perhaps the most empowering of all the aspects involved in effective leadership. Personally humble yet intrinsically persistent leaders inspire others and empower them. In all aspects of my practice - executive search, interim management guidance, coaching and assessments - this lies at the core.

I, too, seek to be humble while remaining steadfast in content, specifically in relation to those I work with. Granted, I am not perfect, and am also learning a little every day....

The suggestion to take a step back from time to time and create space for genuine self-reflection is particularly helpful.

Others have published on the topic as well. If you wish to read more on the subject, let me know.

Feel welcome to exchange views. On what my experiences are with helping organizations to select leaders. Or as a coach helping leaders develop themselves. Or any other subject relevant to you.

Warm regards,



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