Self-awareness is a key ability of the emotionally intelligent person. It helps us monitor the attitudes and behaviours that affect those we lead and gives us insight into how others think and feel. This topic also provides an opportunity to develop your own self-awareness.


Hopefully as we have worked through some of the mechanisms that are at play in the way we think and respond and also completed some of the exercises, you will have realised that self-awareness is the key to awareness of others. We all have a different experience but we are fundamentally the same. Consequently insight to what makes us tick gives us insight into what makes others tick.

Self-awareness is the gateway to improving our ability to understand others and improving Emotional Intelligence. It not only illuminates our behaviour but it helps illuminate the reasons behind why others react as they do; helping to turn the monochrome of puzzlement into full colour.

From the bridgehead of self-awareness we not only develop our social awareness but gain the insight that allows us to have greater control over our emotional responses to situations. The combination of social awareness and self-management enable us to better manage our relationships with others.

As we develop empathy we are able to understand what is going on with others and by self-management we are able to adjust how we behave, so as to better relate with them at that time. This will improve our ability to communicate and work with them so that we are able to avoid barriers and collaborate more effectively. An outcome that is essential to the Christ-centred servant leader. We are also able to model the quality of relationships that are necessary for our team to work together effectively, an essential leadership practice.

Self-Awareness v Selfishness

As Christians we understand the call to be concerned for others, to serve them in line with the model of Jesus, as we discussed in Exploring Leadership in the Kingdom. Thus focussing on self seems to be the wrong things to do; it seems to be selfish.

However, being self-aware is not even close to being selfish. Selfishness is about focussing on gratifying our desires at the expense of others. Self-awareness is not about that at all. It’s about knowing ourselves so that we can engage in a journey of growth towards maturity. It’s essential to developing spiritual maturity as we submit our character to Christ. It’s also essential to being able to relate better with others so that we might serve them. This is a core value of being a Christ-centred servant leader.

In Romans 12:3 Paul is encouraging his readers to have a right and modest view of themselves; to be aware if they hold themselves in too high a regard and to moderate their attitudes and attendant behaviour. To do this they must be, or perhaps become, aware of themselves.

In chapter 13 verses 3-5 of his Gospel, John tells us that Jesus was self-aware. He knew who he was, he knew his destiny and he knew his inherent servant character. In fact he was the most self-aware person that ever lived but the testimony of Jesus is nowhere spoilt by selfishness. Jesus is the Christian’s role model and his indwelling character, through the Holy Spirit, offers the prospect that we too may develop our self-awareness without being selfish.

A Journey in Two Directions

Self-awareness, for a Christian, is a journey in two directions. It helps in our relationship with God. For instance, the Ladder of Inference challenges us to examine why we think and react as we do. It opens up the possibility of our cooperating with the Holy Spirit as he renews our minds, so that we might not conform to the world (Romans 12:2) but to test and approve God’s good and perfect will. It enables us to compare ourselves, not with each other, but with the model of Jesus and the Bible’s teaching about the nature of the “new man”.

Self-awareness is also the foundation upon which our awareness of others is built. This works in two ways: We become aware of how we react towards and relate to others, and we have a model that makes us sensitive to what is going on with other people. It has been said that “The seedbed of empathy is self-awareness”.

  • Take a Moment: Read Romans 7:14 – 8:4 Paul’s demonstration of self-awareness
    • What did Paul understand about himself?
    • What did that help Paul understand about the problem he faced?
    • How did that help Paul deal with the issue?
    • How would you have probably responded if you had that same dilemma?

Paul is confronted with the agony of being trapped in sin. He desired to do differently than he did, but he could not escape. He understood himself and was able to turn to Christ for aid and was able to utter praise.

How would we have responded? May be by ignoring or denying the issue and hoping it would go away or perhaps, at the other extreme, by becoming down-hearted and depressed, entering spiritual decline and giving up.

Take a Moment for Self-discovery

Now it’s time to take a moment, well several moments really, to complete some exercises that will help you explore and develop your self-awareness.  It is possible that these exercises may emotionally take you somewhere where you feel conflicted or find difficult or painful. If that happens, don’t give up, but rather go and talk about it with someone that you trust. Also bring it before God in prayer.

You will find it helpful to make notes. Also find that trusted person and over a cup of coffee take time to share with them about the exercises and what you have discovered.

  • Take A Moment
    • Take a little time to reflect on your feelings when you meet:
      • Authority figures
      • Old people
      • Young people
      • Other church leaders
      • Attractive members of the opposite sex
      • Parents, relatives
    • Why do you feel this way with these people?

  • Take a Moment
    • Ponder what it is that motivates you?
      • Pushes you into action?
      • Pulls you in to action?
    • If you could do anything in the world what would it be?
      • Why?

  • Take a Moment
    • The Retirement Exercise
      Imagine that you are retiring write notes for the speech that you hope that your boss would give at the retirement party.

  • Take a Moment
    • Using the Lifeline Chart, available in the Appendix of the Student Notes, plot:
      • The high and low points of your life
      • Repeat the exercise for your spiritual life (use a different colour)
      • Bearing in mind Emotional Hijacking and the Ladder of Inference, how do these highs and lows affect you?
        • Why?

Using the Lifeline

The horizontal axis of the plot represents age at which the life point took place and the vertical axis a rating from -20 to +20 allowing to rate your life point. So for instance getting married might score plus 15 points and the birth of a child plus 20; the death of parent might score minus 15 and being made redundant minus 5.  You can use the downloaded chart  or you can sketch it out on a sheet of paper.

Measuring Emotional Intelligence

An inexpensive book that you may find helpful is Introducing Emotional Intelligence A practical Guide by Dr David Walton, published by ISBN 978-184831422-1. It’s available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.

This is an easy to read introduction to the essentials of Emotional Intelligence with tips on approaches for improvement. It also includes questionnaires to give you helpful insights into your own Emotional Intelligence at an overview level.

Psychometric Assessments

Psychometric assessments are essentially questionnaires that are designed to measure certain aspects of a person’s ability or personality. They are tested and validated to prove that they actually measure what they claim to measure.  They can be very helpful in providing information and insight during the recruitment process, when identifying personal development needs and progress, structuring a team and so on.  In these cases they provide information to inform the decision making processes. So, for instance, they can give you insight into a person during recruitment but it is bad practice to make a decision solely based on them. There are excellent psychometric assessments that measure Emotional Intelligence and provide an Emotional Quotient – or EQ.

A word of warning: Such assessments provide reports in addition to scores. These reports comment on the particular strengths and weaknesses of the individual concerned that have been highlighted by the test.

It is always best, in fact we would say necessary, to have a qualified practitioner help you understand the feedback you receive. The reason being is that an unqualified person alone is unlikely to understand exactly what is being said in the reports, their implication and recommended development path. It is possible to completely misunderstand what the report says because of the technical meaning of key words and this may cause significant problems.

It is for these reasons we would recommend that you do not use on-line psychometric assessments unless you have the qualified assistance identified to help you.

The questionnaires in the book recommended above are designed to give a simple and helpful flavour of Emotional Intelligence and stay well away from the danger areas. Therefore, they are useful for our purposes of introducing Emotional Intelligence and helping you gain your initial insight.