self-discovery and leadership

Starting with the Self — 7 Tips to Unleash the Leader Within

In the ancient days of Aristotle, the celebrated philosopher imparted an age-old adage — an idea still resonating with profound truth today: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

At the heart of this timeless insight lies a reality transcending cultures and eras — forming a cornerstone for personal growth and the lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

In professional leadership, where knowing others is essential to guiding them, the spirit of self-discovery is often understated. In reality, the transformative journey toward effective and authentic leadership cannot begin with those you lead — instead, it must start with an honest exploration of yourself. This intrinsic self-awareness is the bedrock for understanding others and inspiring them to achieve their highest potential.

With the goals of wisdom and leadership in mind, let’s explore how knowing yourself can be an indispensable tool for guiding others.

Tip #1: Live your legacy

By its most essential definition, a narrative is a story. Like your favorite fictional or cultural figure, you have a narrative, too. Your personal and professional journey form an overarching saga you write daily — continuously establishing your current reality in the trail of past experiences.

Our narratives encapsulate our individual experiences, values, and perspectives, shaping the lens through which we perceive the world. Understanding and embracing one’s story is a cornerstone of effective leadership, forming a profound connection between who you are and how you lead.

By acknowledging and delving into your narrative, you can discover invaluable insights about your motivations, strengths, and areas for growth — enabling you to lead authentically and align your actions with your core values.

Moreover, embracing your narrative equips you to navigate challenges resiliently, drawing on the lessons learned throughout your journey. In this regard, your story serves as a guiding compass, steering you towards leadership that is not only effective but also genuine and empathetic.

Furthermore, by holding your story close to heart, you cultivate self-awareness while fostering genuine connections with your team. Transparently sharing aspects of your journey creates a relatable leadership style, engendering trust and cohesion within the team.

Tip #2: Understand your identity

Living your story is a fact of life. Truly understanding oneself, however, can be a challenging feat. At the nexus of effective leadership lies the pivotal element of self-awareness — so, what can you do to support and enhance your sense of identity?

An esteemed tool amongst diverse industry leaders, the Enneagram Test transcends conventional personality assessments — delving deeper into the intricacies of individual personas.

Derived at the intersection of ancient mysticism, spiritual tradition, and modern psychology and social sciences, the Enneagram Test uncovers core motivations and patterns of behavior — offering a nuanced understanding of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and distinctive leadership style.

At its essence, leadership is about influence. By delineating your motivations and offering insights into how you communicate, the Enneagram acts as a roadmap — helping you harness your voice while enabling you to inspire others.

Tip #3: Acknowledge your imposter

Even the most self-assured of us experience moments of uncertainty. Likewise, no leadership journey is immune to challenges such as imposter syndrome, a lingering feeling of inadequacy despite evident success.

For emerging leaders, dealing with imposter syndrome is a widespread yet often overlooked barrier. When imposter syndrome undermines our confidence, self-doubt emerges, hindering our potential. In order to turn this obstacle into a source of self-empowerment, it’s essential to recognize and confront these limiting beliefs.

If you need to address your inner “imposter”, considering taking these steps:

Account for your achievements: Every achievement, big or small, is worth celebrating. Take the time to acknowledge your victories. You can even keep archives of accomplishments and positive feedback you’ve received — offering a source of solace in moments of uncertainty.
Cease negative self-talk: Much of imposter syndrome comes from the false assumption others are more equipped than you. While you may not have the same skills as somebody else, your knowledge and abilities have brought you this far. Acknowledge that self-doubt is a distortion and challenge these beliefs when they creep in.
Mind your mentors: Behind every effective leader is an encouraging mentor. Connecting with current or former mentors can provide reassurance, guidance, and much-needed perspective.
Practice self-compassion: The disparaging things we say to ourselves are typically things we’d never suggest to others. Treat yourself with the same kindness you extend to your colleagues. In doing so, you accept that perfection is unattainable, and everyone makes mistakes — leaders, too!
Prioritize professional development: No matter where you are in your professional journey, there are always growth opportunities. To tackle imposter syndrome, participate in workshops and career development opportunities focused on building confidence and leadership skills.


At Goodwin, our Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) program helps budding leaders harness their voices. With an engaging curriculum, expert instruction, and small cohort sizes, you’ll develop the knowledge and soft skills necessary to make a meaningful impact on the big picture. Ready to learn more? Download your free copy of our MSOL Get Started Guide today!



Tip #4: Transform from your failures

Another key to conquering imposter syndrome? Redefining failure.

Although many shrink in fear at the prospect of a shortcoming, hiding from failure does nothing to address it. Instead, by rebranding moments of failure as opportunities for improvement, we can objectively assess what went wrong and embrace it as an educational opportunity, aiding our growth.

Seeing failure in a new light doesn’t just serve you as a leader — it supports your entire department. Leaders who understand that failure is not a dead-end create resilient and innovative workplace cultures. Upholding a culture of failure transforms setbacks into stepping stones, encouraging employees to view challenges as opportunities for personal and professional development.

Tip #5: Up your emotional awareness

Enhancing emotional awareness is a transformative journey for leaders — enabling them to nurture growth and foster positive professional environments.

Strengthening your emotional awareness may sound abstract, but you can employ plenty of practical strategies to improve this skill. One of the most accessible exercises for increasing emotional awareness is actively engaging in self-reflection.

A catalyst for fine-tuning interpersonal skills, self-reflection helps you gain a heightened awareness of your emotions — identifying patterns, triggers, and areas for growth as you candidly examine how you fit into the big picture. By harnessing your emotional strengths and weaknesses, you can engage in targeted self-development — making space for improved self-regulation and decision-making. Moreover, empathy development is a byproduct of self-reflection, bettering your interpersonal connections and relationships within your team.

Underscoring the critical importance of emotional awareness is its multifaceted impact on leadership efficacy. Emotionally astute leaders communicate constructively, build strong relationships, and use compassion to navigate conflicts. Their positive attitudes inspire confidence and motivation within their teams — ultimately elevating team performance while creating a culture of collaboration, trust, and productivity.

Tip #6: Use self-insight to inspire inclusion

In an era where diversity and equity take center stage, inclusive leadership has become paramount. Empathetic, emotionally in-tune leaders set the tone for inclusion and belonging — celebrating the depth and breadth of the diverse experiences that define their team.

Keeping this in mind, it’s critical for leaders to assess their own blind spots. By identifying how your own experiences and perspectives are limited, you can take action to address this — collaborating and counseling with diverse colleagues to increase inclusion. In doing so, you invest in the equity of your workplace — establishing a sense of belonging shared by all those you lead.

Beyond enriching departmental culture, inviting eclectic ideas to the table helps your team anticipate and satisfy the expectations of a modern client base. With society growing ever more mindful of diversity and equity, teams that value versatile viewpoints prioritize inclusive representation — safeguarding against ignorance to ensure no client is ostracized.

Tip #7: Don’t hit pause on professional development

Nobody ever finishes growing, and that includes you!

In a world defined by perpetual flux, the commitment to continuous learning emerges as a cornerstone for leaders striving to stay ahead of the curve. Adopting a forward-thinking approach isn’t only about acknowledging the rapid changes in leadership paradigms. Instead, you must actively seek opportunities to push the envelope.

In the lifelong journey of learning, professional development acts as your vehicle — escorting you to essential ideas and novel innovations. Keeping your finger on the pulse of emerging trends and incorporating cutting-edge research allows you to infuse leadership initiatives with fresh insights and perspectives. In addition to expanding your knowledge and skills, professional development equips you to address the multifaceted challenges of the modern workplace.

Ultimately, leaders who view professional development as a constant process not only enhance their impact, but inspire a culture of curiosity and self-discovery throughout their organizations. By fostering a culture of continuous learning within their teams, leaders create an environment where ingenuity thrives, laying the groundwork for sustainable success.

Leading through self-discovery

Intricately woven into the web of leadership is the journey of self-exploration — a perpetual odyssey marked by introspection, growth, and resilience.

Aspiring leaders who embark on this odyssey unlock their true potential. Surpassing mere personal growth, their self-reflection ripples through teams, organizations, and society at large — resonating with profound and immeasurable impact. By embracing the ever-unfolding odyssey of self-discovery, we pave the way for a future where leaders inspire ongoing success, inclusive collaboration, and endless innovation.

At Goodwin University, our students are more than numbers. Home to a diverse community, comprehensive student services, and supportive faculty and staff, you’ll receive the holistic education you need to take the first steps of your leadership journey. Learn more about earning your MSOL at Goodwin University today! Call 800-889-3282 or text 860-467-1511.