Self-awareness in Nursing Leadership


Published: 01 August 2015

Great leaders spend time on their personal development. They recognise that leading and inspiring others requires a skill-set that includes good communication, interpersonal expertise, emotional intelligence and mentoring skills. Self-awareness is the foundational skill for personal growth and leadership development.

It requires the courage to explore how you think and how you make sense of your world. According to Hendrie Weisinger (1998), "you must understand what is important to you, how you experience things, what you want, how you feel and how you come across to others.”

How Do You Make Assessments?

Hendrie Weisinger (1998) asks us to look at our appraisals to improve our self-awareness. It is important to appreciate and understand how you make the judgements that you make every day. Information from the world around us comes to us through our five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. In order for us to process and understand the information that is available to us, we each have our own unique filtering system. We delete, distort, generalise or ignore some things and tune into others.

This neurological filtering system includes our previous experiences, our beliefs and values, our memories and our language. It is important to recognise and appreciate that our assessment of a situation is affected by all of these information filters. Tony Robbins puts it this way, “Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning we give it.”

Understand Your Emotions

Increasing Your Self-awareness
Self-awareness is a basic building block for nursing leadership.

You create feelings as a result of the meaning you give to something. It happens at a subconscious level. Becoming aware of how you react and behave as a result of your thoughts and feelings allows you to manage your responses. Our fight and flight response stands alone as the one response we are hard-wired for. To flee or to fight is our most primitive response and requires no thoughts to create action. Our amygdala reacts to threat, real or imagined.

Understand What Motivates You

What are your true intentions? Tap into your feelings and behaviour to learn more about yourself and what prompts you to feel and behave the way you do. Be aware that our ego exists to serve us and sometimes our deepest intentions are ego-driven. Increasing your self-awareness gives you the opportunity to ask, 'Is what I am doing primarily self-serving or is it for the welfare of everyone involved?’

Notice Your Results

How you behave and move in your world impacts on the people you are in contact with. Your communication, both verbal and non-verbal, has an impact on the people you communicate with. Recognising how you are affecting others gives you the chance to assess whether your message is being understood and perceived in the way you intended it to be.

Self-awareness as a leader means you have a clear understanding of the impact you have on your team. You understand that having the right impact may mean you have to create different language and different behaviour to get the results that you need. Improving your self-awareness gives you a greater chance of inspiring your people to follow your lead and work towards your goals.

  • Bandler, R & Grinder, J 1975, The Structure of Magic: A Book about Language and Therapy, Science and Behaviour Books, US.
  • Be Ispired 2017, 40 Tony Robbins Inspirational Lines and Quotes that Will Change Your Life, Be Inspired, viewed 6 November 2020,
  • Weisinger, H PhD, Emotional Intelligence at Work, Jossy-Bass Inc, San Francisco, 1998, pp. 350.