What is it about self-awareness?

In the January edition of Harvard Business Review, Tasha Eurich wrote a really interesting article called ‘What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It)‘. I found the article fascinating and have been thinking about it to the point of digging it back out on the internet and sharing it with people I know.

Emotional Intelligence Skills has been linked to many benefits within both a business and personal environment and is an essential component of good leadership. At the basis of EI skills is self-awareness.

Benefits of self-awareness

There is strong scientific evidence that people who know themselves and how others see them are happier, make smarter decisions, have better relationships both professionally and privately, are better students, more creative, more confident and better communicators. They are less aggressive and less likely to lie, cheat or steal. They are better performers at work and get more promotions and finally, they are more effective leaders with more enthusiastic employees and lead more profitable companies.

Yet while everyone agrees about how important it is, there is a lot of debate about what the individual skills consist of and how to measure them. Without those important definitions, it is difficult to do research that is comparable across different environments, and I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to proper scientific evidence….

The research

Eurich describes key research in her article, done by her and her team. The research has not been published in an academic journal yet, which is why I have had it on the back burner, but actually the points she makes resonates so strongly with my own experience that I have decided to share some of them.

Eurich’s research highlighted some key points around different types of self-awareness:

  • Eurich differentiates between Internal self-awareness and External self-awareness.
    • Internal self-awareness represents how clearly we see our values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths and weaknesses) and impact on others. Internal self-awareness is associated with higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control and happiness. Low internal self-awareness I negatively related to anxiety, stress and depression.
    • External self-awareness means understanding how other people view us in regards to all the factors above. People who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspective.
  • There is virtually no relationship between the two of them – having one does not mean that you have the other. This leads Eurich to identifying 4 self-awareness archetypes:
  Low external self-awareness High external self-awareness
High internal self-awareness INTROSPECTORS

Are clear on who they are but don’t challenge their own views or search for blind spots by getting feedback from others. This can harm their relationships and limit their success.


Know who they are, what they want to accomplish and seek out and value others’ opinions. This is where leaders begin to fully realise the true benefits of self-awareness.

Low internal self-awareness SEEKERS

Don’t yet know who they are, what they stand for or how their teams see them. As a result they might feel stuck or frustrated with their performance and relationships.


Can be so focused on appearing a certain way to others that they could be overlooking what matters to them. Over time, they tend to make choices that aren’t in service of their own success and fulfillment.

What’s next?

It is clear and not particularly surprising that having no self-awareness or only one, causes challenges for leaders. The most important questions for me are the following:

  1. What is the reason that some people develop one type of self-awareness only, some the other, some both and some none at all?
  2. What are the blocks that prevent people from learning? And how can we remove them?
  3. What are the most effective ways of helping people develop both internal and external self-awareness and how do you position that help in such a way that people are eager and willing to do the work?

And that, my dear Watson, is what it is really about…


Picture by Shannon Badiee: #CarbonCat ‘s self awareness