The best leaders recognize how they change the climate of a meeting when they enter the room. They understand whether people are reticent to speak candidly in their presence. They discern the way in which the dialogue changes, whether people become more or less energized, and how attentive people are to their statements. They recognize the behaviors that they engage in that may have positive or negative impacts on the team. Kellogg Professor Karen Cates talks about this issue in more depth in a recent Kellogg Insights article. Here's an excerpt from the article, in which she describes social awareness and self-awareness - and the importance these concepts have for leaders:
As Cates sees it, the biggest challenge for leaders moving up in an organization is to cultivate awareness. “People who rise in organizations are usually good self-managers,” she says. “They figure out a job and get it done. They also have great social skills—they know how to work with a team and communicate up and down the hierarchy. But as you get further along, awareness becomes the difference maker when it comes to energizing people.”
Cates distinguishes between two kinds of awareness: social awareness and self-awareness. Social awareness is more or less the ability to read a room. Self-awareness, by contrast, is the understanding that when you enter a room, you change the room. “Being aware of who you are and how you impact other people’s ability to do their work is one of the hallmarks of a good leader,” Cates says. Awareness, a concept linked to emotional intelligence, ties back to the issue of alignment: aware leaders are better able to foster trust by purposefully aligning values and policies—and are better at noticing when they are not in sync.