Message to Som Gollakota

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Woodinville, WA
Leadership - Awareness
May 21, 2009
A
wareness, of the self and of others, is the cornerstone of leadership. Without awareness, every other trait that an aspiring leader would exhibit could seem shallow and meaningless. To develop an all-round awareness, we need to start with self.
"Be the change you want to see in the world" -Gandhi, Father of the Nation, India
If we are not aware of ourselves, we would be hard-pressed to be aware of the world. Without being aware of self and others, we cannot bring about change, nor can we lead.
Self-awareness helps you define yourself, and helps others to define and identify you. Self- awareness builds that identity and helps your team understand what can and cannot be expected of you - a key in setting expectations. Of course, it also provides you an opportunity to define yourself in a way you want yourself to be seen (Be the change you want to see in the world).
None of us are born the way we are at any given point in our lives. We live, we learn, we improve, and grow. Self-awareness is not an overnight transformation, but a conscious and life long process of progressively learning about ourselves. I am more aware today than I was at 18. People around me, and especially my wife, helped me learn about myself, improve, appreciate others, and see others through their eyes. It all happened over a long period of time and unbeknown to those who helped me. Self-awareness is a very personal process. It requires keen observation of self in a variety of situations (actually, every situation) and probing one's self in an open and honest (at times brutally honest) manner. If you cannot do it yourself, have someone else do it for you; someone you know you will not get mad at, or feel uncomfortable with - essentially the ones whom you trust and the ones who trust you. This process helps you learn about yourself - your strengths and your weaknesses, giving you the opportunity to build on your strengths and seek help, where required, to strengthen yourself in the weaker areas.
Being aware of others requires one to be open, listen for understanding, and appreciate others' points of view - essentially seeing what you see (or don't see) through someone else's eyes. What do you think? What is your opinion? Or what is your perspective? When they begin to answer, listen and understand. If you don't understand, ask for clarifications. Ask questions to understand, not confirm your perceptions. Don't draw conclusions or make judgments about others, let others conclude for you.
Being aware of others also requires keen observation of the people we interact with on daily basis. It helps us understand their motivations, what makes them who they are, what makes them happy or sad, passionate or indifferent, tick or twitch or snap, what brings the best in them and worst. This will help you identify their strengths and weaknesses, and leverage them in the best possible way, bring out the best in them and also make them want to bring out the best in themselves.
In conclusion, awareness of self and others helps leaders lead. It is hard to lead if you don't know who you are, who you are leading, and where. Knowing yourself and the people you lead helps you identify strengths and weaknesses in yourself and others, thereby giving you the opportunity as a leader to
  1. Complement your team members' weaknesses with your own strengths and/or the strengths of others
  2. Leverage the strengths of your team members to complement yourself and/or others who are weaker in certain areas
A simple example - When the pot we are holding in our hands carrying water, is leaking, we leverage appropriate strength of our hands to seal the leak and carry water. Once we successfully complete our mission, we bring help to mend a stronger patch, making the pot stronger for next time.
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