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To Become a Better Leader, Be Aware

To Become a Better Leader, Be Aware
Photograph by Chris Ryan/Getty Images

Lately I have been having lots of conversations with students and executives about becoming better leaders. While management literature is rife with descriptions and prescriptions for how you, too, can become an excellent leader, in truth, it’s not an analytic skill you can pick up from textbooks or the classroom. Too many people struggle with this concept, even though the questions I often get are deceptively simple: “What exactly am I supposed to do to motivate my team?” ”How do I get top leaders to recognize my successes?”

Uber-achievers, like many current and post-MBAs, often fall into the trap of thinking that working harder will get them ahead—and into that next leadership role. But hard work takes them only so far. What we fail to emphasize in business school and in corporate mentorship programs is the importance of developing softer skills—an “awareness” of yourself and the people around you that helps you leverage previously untapped personal qualities. In other words, leaders need to develop empathy—a concept that is infinitely more complex than it sounds.