How to build self-awareness for executive presence

We all think we are self-aware. Of course, you know yourself better than anyone else. Right? Not necessarily.

You rewind and replay those thoughts in your head so many times a day you think nobody else could know them better than you. That may be true. But that does not make you aware of how they show in your behavior.

And this blind spot is the biggest deterrent to executive presence, relationship building and confidence.

Two Kinds of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness has two factions. First, there is internal self-awareness – how well you understand yourself. Second, there is external self-awareness – your understanding of how others view you.

You think you are a good manager. You write good concise descriptions, screen for attitude as well as experience, align the bench strength of your team, and clearly communicate strategy in tandem with the business plan.

You mentor your employees because you care about them and provide personal development plans, coaching, career ladders, and rewards.

You might know what you stand for because you have high internal self-awareness, yet you don’t challenge your own views or encourage others to do the same because of low external self-awareness.

Or you could be hyper-focused on how to please others to the detriment of your own desires due to high external self-awareness and low internal awareness.

Or you don’t have a personal mission or purpose and are oblivious as to why you are stagnant in your performance and relationships. This is a result of low internal and external self-awareness.

The Filter We Apply

Our perception of the world is witnessed through the filter we apply for it to make sense according to what we believe. The problem with this is that what we believe may be an assumption with bias. This leads to expectations out of our control. The filter we apply is our ego. If your ego does not get the attention it needs, you will not be happy.

Even if a large ego gets validated, the desire for validation will never be satiated, leaving you and those who seek your approval exhausted. Therefore, leaders with large egos usually build cultures of chaos. When the leader is not around things are fine. When she comes back, everyone’s stress level increases.

How it Plays at Work and Life

Just because you were terminated in one job does not mean it will happen again, yet you armor up against it by leading from a risk-averse position of fear. Just because your spouse spends time with children from a previous marriage does not mean he doesn’t love you, yet a large ego leaves you feeling threatened and excluded.

When a boss doesn’t give you enough positive feedback your ego interprets her as a bad boss because you need external validation as opposed to being fulfilled by your good work.

What to Do

People who have high internal and external self-awareness know who they are, what they want and feel an interconnectedness with others. Their egos are not in the way of building great teams, cultures, relationships, and the best version of themselves. They have solid executive presence.

Your goal in building high internal and external self-awareness is to know how to reign in your ego with curiosity. When you feel out of alignment ask yourself, “What is going on with me?” Be aware of the discord without judgment so that you may identify it in real-time. “Oh, this is my ego seeking attention and validation.

May I be gentle with myself in this moment.” Practice this over time and you will begin to notice the ego inserting itself into your awareness before you act on it with regret.


If you want more executive presence tips here’s a link to the FREE eBook – 31 Executive Presence Practices for Leaders in the High Stakes Corporate World .