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Self-awareness for self-leadership

The central feature in the current work life is the decline of all regulative structures. Formal education is substituted by life-long learning at work and traditional career paths resemble more like colourful quilts. Responsibility is turned over to people themselves and self-leadership becomes everyone's task. Self-leadership requires self-awareness which can be explored through questions on one's main work role, habitual action patterns, planning & problem solving and ways of viewing the world and oneself.

Main Role at Work

The first question in drawing one's competency portrait is what would be the most congenial role for oneself at work. Would the role of an "Independent performer", "Leader" or "Collaborator" meet with one's innermost motivation, core interests and inspiration. The strength differences in the three main motivations displayed on the WOPI profile answer this question (more in Lesson: What is motivation?) but the following guides in making an independent assessment of one's potentialities at work.

The core interest of "Independent performers" lies in attaining either high quality or sizeable results in independent activities. They feel and perform best in different expert and supporting jobs. The core interest of "Leaders" is in leading others' action or their thoughts. They are at their best in supervisory or other influencing jobs. The core interest of "Collaborators" is in doing things with or for others using communication, guidance and listening. They thrive in different expert and supporting jobs that emphasize direct, face-to-face interaction. About half of the people appear as holders of one distinct role while the other half reflects various combinations of two roles.

Action patterns

The behavioral picture becomes more sharply specified along the question of one's habitual action patterns. Namely, competent independent performance includes both focused, quality-seeking as well as a competitive and results-seeking behavior patterns. Quality-seeking behavior is needed in jobs with more circumscribed responsibilities, which require highly finished and flawless outcomes pursued in even-paced and uni-directional steps. Technical, content emphasizing expert and supporting jobs mark as examples of this. Results-seeking behavior is in turn needed in jobs with broader responsibilities where quantitative results are pursued in longer, risk-taking and multi-directional steps. Examples of such are different entrepreneurial jobs and sales.

Competent leadership includes both action as well as thought leading patterns. The former is needed in supervisory jobs as well as in different jobs involving strong direction of others' conduct. The latter pattern is needed in supervisory jobs but also in many jobs involving inspiration and leadership of others' thoughts such as marketing and promotional work.

Competent collaboration includes three action patterns, collaboration sub-processes: communication, guidance and listening to others. Their competence value varies with each target job. Communication and coordination jobs call for active communication with others, caring and educational jobs require guidance of others while customer service involves an appropriate amount of listening to, and serving of other people.

Planning & problem solving

Work roles and their subsumed action patterns concern behavior in the world of things and people. Today it is growingly important also to understand behavior in the world of information which at work means planning & problem solving. Planning and problem solving includes two competence avenues, the strengthening of existing processes and creation of new processes. The sum score of Thinking displayed on the WOPI Profile indicates to which side the individual tilts in his or her planning and problem solving. Both processes are needed but their relative competence value depends on each given job. Administrative and security jobs tend to emphasize time-proven existing processes whereas marketing and product development crave for entirely new kind of processes. Individuals' planning and problem solving often includes both kind of processes.

The picture of planning and problem solving becomes much more specified when examined along its four consecutive steps. In other words, plans and problems are (a) approached, (b) perceived, (c) produced solutions to, and finally (d) implemented. Each step works to promote either existing or new processes.


The third and last question of self-awareness concerns the individual's viewing of the world and oneself. The most important point is the individual's affinity to stable vs. mobile work environments. Stable environments incorporate recurring processes and competence is marked by the ability to perceive irregularities, as in administrative work or control room. In mobile work environments, processes vary and competence springs from curiosity towards everything new and different evidenced in expatriate or creative work. Realism vs. optimism and self-reflection represent competencies depending on each target job. Below, a map of Basic competencies for navigating self-awareness.

Basic competencies

Creating the portrait

In summary, self-awareness is being aware of one’s work role, behavior patterns, ways of planning and problem solving, preferred work environments and other viewings. The above map of Basic competencies is used in drawing a rough outline portrait by asking which of the three main roles (or combination) appears as befitting to oneself? The next question is whether one tilts more to promoting of existing processes or creating of new processes in planning and problem solving? The crude outline portrait is completed by asking whether one feels happier in recurrent vs. variety providing work environments?

The behavioral portrait is further specified by shifting attention to the different action patterns subsumed under the different work roles. For example, the specifying question for the Independent performer is whether the person tends to focus and seek quality or compete and seek for results? The planning and problem solving portrait in turn becomes specified by examination of the four steps: approaching, perceiving, producing solutions and implementing plans and problem solutions.

Self leadership

The need for self-leadership may arise in many situations. Entering the work career, progressing one's career, finding an entirely new career or, simply developing one’s competencies during the career are examples of situations calling for self-awareness and self-leadership. Mapping out one's Basic competencies is useful because of their platform-like quality. Although not unchanging, Basic competencies are more stable than the currently disrupting occupational and job specific competencies. They serve as a guiding platform to all occupational and job specific competence, (more in Lesson: Basic competencies).

Although self-awareness is obviously most important to the single individual, it bears significant value for work organizations. The consultant company Korn & Ferry (2015) mapped out “blind spots” among nearly 7000 professionals working in 486 listed companies, comparing them to the company stock value. Blind spots were defined as gaps between the professionals' self-reports on their core competencies and reports given by their co-workers. Companies with highest rate of return showed significantly less blind spots among their professionals.


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