Knowing yourself is critical to being an effective leader. Building self-awareness and understanding your tendencies and motivational drivers can enable you to unlock potential in yourself and your team.

“Self-awareness is about developing your capacity to sense how you’re coming across, to have undistorted visibility into your own strengths and weaknesses, and to be able to gauge the emotions you’re personally experiencing,” says Harvard Business School Professor Joshua Margolis in the online course Leadership Principles. “If you’re going to mobilize others to get things done, you can’t let your own emotions get in the way.”

According to an analysis by Korn/Ferry International, companies with higher rates of financial return tend to employ professionals with high degrees of self-awareness. Research also shows that self-aware leaders report having:

  • Greater effectiveness in the workplace
  • Better relationships with colleagues
  • An improved ability to identify and manage their emotions
  • Reduced stress

Reaping these rewards can be achieved through honest self-assessment. By examining the patterns that emerge in how you view yourself, and how others experience you, you can identify ways to learn and develop as a leader.

If you want to maximize your career trajectory and improve how you guide and manage teams, here are four ways you can assess your leadership effectiveness.

How to Assess Your Leadership Effectiveness

1. Complete a Self-Assessment


Questionnaires can be useful for identifying your motivations and strengths. In the online course Leadership Principles, participants complete two self-assessments: The Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) and the Personal Values Questionnaire (PVQ).

By taking these assessments, learners can recognize behavioral patterns and gain insight into how they manage themselves and their colleagues.

This self-awareness is critical to effective leadership because it develops emotional intelligence—an ability that’s possessed by 90 percent of top performers in the workplace. Through looking inward and answering questions with honesty and candor, you learn how to better command your emotions, as well as others’, and build a foundation for your leadership approach.

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2. Observe Yourself


In addition to self-assessments, observing a video recording of yourself can be a valuable way to learn more about your leadership tendencies. Taking part in this kind of exercise can enable you to gauge how you present yourself and exhibit attributes of different leadership styles, such as authenticity, humility, and faith.

Engaging in critical self-observation can also help you overcome the vulnerability that comes with putting yourself in front of others as a leader, providing you with the confidence needed to inspire and influence your team.

3. Ask for Feedback


Beyond self-reflection, turn to those you interact and collaborate with for feedback on your effectiveness. Unlike management, leadership is less about administering and organizing, and more about aligning and empowering employees to pursue organizational goals.

By turning to your colleagues for thoughts on how they experience your leadership style, you can identify discrepancies in how you perceive yourself and chart a plan for improvement.

Soliciting and heeding feedback also helps develop clear lines of communication with your team, which is essential for building trust and driving performance.

For Juliana Casale, a marketing professional who took the online course Leadership Principles, completing self-assessments and receiving peer feedback led to a greater sense of awareness in her role and improved communication with her team.

“I'm now more mindful of how my colleagues are experiencing me, and less averse to having difficult conversations,” Casale says.

Related: How to Give Feedback Effectively

4. Build and Maintain a Robust Network


Leadership is a skill that must be honed over time. As you progress throughout your career, it’s vital to cultivate a robust network you can rely on for coaching, support, and guidance.

“Your internal and external networks are important leadership assets,” says HBS Professor Anthony Mayo in the online course Leadership Principles. “They're how you gain access to resources like information, know-how, and funding that are crucial in enabling you to help those you’re leading. Networks also foster your learning by connecting you to people in organizations with different skills, perspectives, and contexts than your own.”

Through networking, you can build a powerful resource that exposes you to new opportunities and drives your personal growth and success.

Leadership Principles: Unlock your leadership potential. Learn more.

Unleashing Your Leadership Potential

You can be an effective leader at any stage of your career. Whether you’re a mid-level manager or new to the workforce, honing your leadership skills can pay dividends for your professional development.

By building self-awareness, soliciting feedback, and networking, you can gain a better understanding of your personal leadership style and unleash the potential in yourself and others.

Do you want to enhance your leadership skills? Download our free leadership e-book and explore our online course Leadership Principles to discover how you can become a more effective leader and unleash the potential in yourself and others.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in news and content marketing. He has a background in video production and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.