The one leadership quality everyone should have

ShowUp Team | Published: April 17, 2020

Self-awareness is a concept that gets lots of recognition in leadership theories. Emphasis needs to be placed on the role it plays in building trust in work environments as well. Daniel Goleman lists self-awareness as an essential component of the emotional intelligence needed to build trusting relationships and describes it as; “Knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and goals—and their impact on others.”

It’s one thing to know what your own inner drive is, and another to know what impact your actions have on others. That’s where the skill of insightfulness can make its mark. Trust within your team at work starts with an awareness of your own image that you are presenting to others and the impact your actions have within your work environment.

Having insight is defined in the online Oxford dictionary as “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something.” The synonyms listed include perception, awareness, and understanding. The inner core of insightfulness then is to be able to understand the reasoning behind your actions and the impact your actions have on the people within the environment.

It is then when your ability to perceive “what is” will influence your ability to gain trust. Trust within your work environment is the drive needed to attain a healthy work culture composed of outstanding behaviors and excellence in teamwork.

About 95% of people think they have good self-awareness, whereas only about 10-15% of us actually possess this skill.

Yikes, that’s a harsh reality and also a well known fact that personalities will clash. Trust is lost where there is dysfunctional relationships at work where and no insight to focus on finding a neutral ground to work together toward a common goal. In his academic textbook, The Leadership Experience (2015), Richard Daft emphasizes the need to understand your own personality traits and be familiar with other types of personalities to enhance trust in working relationships. Daft believes that this is a crucial step in becoming self aware.

It is the component of understanding yourself and the individuals you work with so you know who you are, you know who they are, and you know what values each other stands for. By engaging in this practice, you put yourself in the best position to acknowledge the habits or behaviors in yourself and others that tend to cause dysfunction and break trust. As the saying goes. You can only make changes to what you understand.

Using a variety of sources, the following is a synapse of the types of personalities you will come across at work. It is my hope that by understanding the pattern of responses seen in yourself as well as in your co-workers, this knowledge will give you added insight into an approach that works to build trust in finding a neutral ground to work in:


Openness- imaginative, creative, intellectually curious, engaging, non-judgemental, philosophical.

  • High degree of openness - seek out new experiences and ideas - would do well in a creative team position.
  • Low degree of openness - narrow interests and prefer stability – does not like change in role, responsibility or environment: would not do well in a position with a constant changing role and in a changing environment.

Conscientiousness- responsible, dependable, persistent, performance driven, task/goal orientated.

  • High degree of conscientiousness- has other’s interests at heart – genuine in actions - strength in gaining and maintain trusting relationships.
  • Low degree of conscientiousness - easily distracted and impulsive – gets stressed easy – emotionally reacts and in the moment – not easy to rely on or depend on as cannot manage own needs vs responding to the needs of others - would not do well in a position with a lot of responsibility or looking after the interests of others.

Extroversion- outgoing, sociable, talkative, self-confident, influential, competitive, assertive.

  • High degree of extroversion - likes control – confident – takes the lead - they thrive in being in charge but their need for control and dominance can be effective in sustaining trust in relationships.
  • Low degree of extroversion - introverted, quiet, socially withdrawn, more of an observer than an active participant - more research is supporting the strengths of introverts in leadership positions.

Agreeableness- cooperative, good natured, forgiving, compassionate, understanding, trusting.

  • High degree of agreeableness - warm and approachable - do great in lead positions.
  • Low degree of agreeableness - cold, distant, insensitive - would not do well in a team position.

Emotional stability- calm, self-secure, reasonable, emotionally intelligent, self-confident.

  • High degree of emotional stability - well adjusted, handles criticism and stress well - does great in high performance positions.
  • Low degree of emotional stability - tense, anxious, depressed, low self-confidence, moody, impulsive - would not do well in a position with high pressure and tight deadlines.

How to make it work for you.

Be situationally aware. It all comes back to some reminders to practice.

  1. Survey the scene: know your environment and the people in it. Pay attention to the interactions of others and the intent of the work. It is when you become the observer that you gain the unspoken knowledge of what’s expected and what’s appropriate.
  2. Stay attentive to your own thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge when someone or something starts that cascade of negative thinking and feeling. Acknowledge the signs then breathe into it. Give yourself permission not to respond nor react but breath and walk away.
  3. Follow up with assertiveness. Understand that in every interaction your perception will be different that the other persons. Understand that two people will always come at a task with a different approach based on their own value and belief system as well as their personality. The key is to find the neutral ground where both individual needs are validated as important and insightful.

Online referenced info and quotes:

Meaning of insight in English
Synonyms of insight in English


How to be self aware at work - Business Insider
The missing ingredient for building trust at work - Psychology Today


When you love your work, but hate your coworkers - CNN Business

The Five Factor Model of Personality:

Five-factor model of personality - Psychologist World
Five-Factor Model of Personality - Oxford Bibliographies

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