As anyone who has witnessed me duck my head when I drive under a bridge knows, I have poor depth perception. Reality and my perception are always at odds and to remain feasibly calm and to be able to do normal tasks such as driving, I use a strategy I obtained from my dear brother who once explained to me (in a tone closer to shouting) “If that @#$% bus can make it so can your @#$% Miata” as we were hurtling towards what seemed our certain death – aka Waldo Grade tunnel on Highway 101. I continue to rely on this sage advice – and often repeat it quietly in my head when I have passengers – to enable me to function successfully and without frightening others with my short-coming.

I have found that although Strengths-Based leadership relies heavily on self-awareness, self-awareness is one of the least emphasized of all the leadership competencies. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, everyone still sees them. So rather than conceal them, the person who tries to hide weaknesses actually creates the perception of a lack of integrity and self-awareness. If I was not aware of my weak depth perception abilities and I continued to express my opinion to my passengers that we were surely going to crash to death trying to squish through a tunnel, not only would no one ever want to ride with me due to the stress of the situation, but my credibility would also be justifiably questioned.

Self-awareness is being conscious of what you’re good at as well as what you are not good at. To be effective and credible, a leader must understand their own strengths and weaknesses and how they impact those around them. Everyone has faults and instinctive behaviors that produce unintended results or consequences. It is critical for leaders to really know themselves and be able to admit their shortcomings and to ask for help in navigating them. No one is perfect and if a leader acts like they are, they will lose credibility and trust or be seen as arrogant and intimidating.


Michelle Smirnoff

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