Self-awareness in Nursing Leadership


Published: 02 August 2015

Great leaders spend time on their personal development. They recognise that leading and inspiring others requires a skill-set that includes good communication, interpersonal expertise, emotional intelligence and mentoring skills. Self-awareness is the foundational skill for personal growth and leadership development.

It requires the courage to explore how you think and how you make sense of your world. Hendrie Weisinger says, “You must understand what is important to you, how you experience things, what you want, how you feel and how you come across to others.”

How Do You Make Assessments?

Hendrie Weisinger asks us to look at our appraisals to improve our self-awareness. It is important to appreciate and understand how you make the judgements that you make every day. Information from the world around us comes to us through our five senses. The information we receive comes to us as either sight, sound, touch, taste or smell. In order for us to process and understand the information that is available to us we each have our own unique filtering system. We delete, distort, generalise or ignore some things and tune into others.

“Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning you give it.” – Tony Robbins

This neurological filtering system includes such things as our previous experiences, our beliefs and values, our memories and our language. It is important to recognise and appreciate that our assessment of a situation is affected by all of these information filters. Tony Robbins puts it this way, “Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning you give it.”

Understand Your Emotions

Increasing Your Self-awareness

Self-awareness is a basic building block for nursing leadership.

You create feelings as a result of the meaning you give to something. It happens at a subconscious level. Becoming aware of how you react and behave as a result of your thought and feelings allows you to manage your responses. Our fight and flight response stands alone as the one response we are hard wired for. To flee or to fight is our most primitive response and requires no thoughts to create action. Our amygdala reacts to threat, real or imagined.

Understand What Motivates You

What are your true intentions? Tap into your feelings and behaviour to learn more about yourself and what prompts you to feel and behave the way you do. Be aware that our ego exists to serve us and sometimes our deepest intentions are ego driven. Increasing your self-awareness gives you the opportunity to ask “is what I am doing primarily self-serving or is it for the welfare of everyone involved?’

Notice Your Results

How you behave and move in your world impacts on the people you are in contact with. Your communication both verbal and non-verbal has an impact on the people you communicate with. Recognising how you are affecting others gives you the chance to assess whether you message is being understood and perceived in the way you intended it to be.

Self-awareness as a leader means you have a clear understanding of the impact you have on your team. You understand that having the right impact may mean you have to create different language and different behaviour to get the results that you need. Improving your self-awareness gives you a greater chance of inspiring your people to follow your lead and work towards your goals.
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  • Bandler, Richard and Grinder, John. The Structure of Magic: A Book about Language and Therapy. Science and Behaviour Books, 1976
  • Tony Robbins Quotes
  • Weisinger, Hendrie PhD. Emotional Intelligence at Work. Jossy-Bass Inc, San Francisco, 1998, pp. 350



Portrait of Janette Cooper
Janette Cooper

Janette Cooper is a registered nurse, currently working as a gastroenterology procedure nurse at Noarlunga Hospital. She has a Bachelor of Nursing, a Graduate Certificate in Health Service Management from Flinders University, and a certificate in Gastroenterology Nursing from The Queensland University of Technology. In 2012 she began a life coaching course with The Coaching Institute in Melbourne. It has allowed her to combine her two passions of nursing and personal development. She divides her time between gastroenterology nursing and promoting personal development and leadership by means of frequently published articles through Ausmed, leadership presentations and workshops and coaching health professionals wanting to develop their leadership potential. See Educator Profile

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