Today’s C-level executives are faced with business stresses that were not even imagined by their predecessors. Complicated business environments have leaders dealing with rapidly changing markets, technologies and workforces as well as tightening budgets, compliance issues and much more.

A 2013 survey conducted by the Stanford Business School found that while 80 percent of CEO respondents suggested that they are receptive to coaching, nearly two-thirds do not receive coaching or leadership training from outside coaches or consultants. It is an astounding finding, but one that is all too common in business today. Top level executives are craving guidance and support, but many are just not getting what they need to be successful.

The statistics regarding CEO success rates are also alarming. One study conducted by Executive Search Information suggests that nearly half of CEOs fail within their first year in the position. Often this failure is not based on their level of competence or knowledge, but rather a leadership style that is not acceptable to those being lead.

The perception of the C-level executive by subordinates plays a big part in how successful the leader will be in their position. If employees feel supported, understood and heard, there is less resistance. However if there is a gap between those in C-level positions and other employees, the willingness to accept change can be considerably more difficult. This adversity also makes it complicated to create a positive and successful organizational culture.

In his book, Why Smart Executives Fail, Sydney Finkelstein investigated a variety of corporate failures. His research uncovered seven habits true of each CEO at a defunct organization.

Habit 1: They tend to show a lack of respect for other employees.
Habit 2: They define themselves personally by their job role.
Habit 3: They believe that they always have the right answers (and no one else does). Therefore, they do not build alliances within the organization.
Habit 4: If a subordinate does not follow the same mantra, leadership is quick to let them go. Therefore, the organizational turnover is very high.
Habit 5: They are in love with self. The want to be the center of attention whether in photographs, at speaking engagements or other public appearances.
Habit 6: They do not have a healthy respect for roadblocks and underestimate the toll they will take on the organization.
Habit 7: They rely on past achievements instead of creating goals for future success.

The sad fact is that many C-level executives have at least a couple of these bad habits. Their inability to seek advice from others blocks their effectiveness as leaders and depletes their capacity to discover and build upon their strengths. All too often, upper level executives are looking for a quick fix…someone who will come in, tell them what is wrong and tell them how to fix it. However, the most effective form of leadership coaching is when the coachee is open to discovering the roadblocks for themselves. This is a key principle of the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) coaching modality. These coaching techniques support the coachee in accessing the things that are blocking success. By opening themselves up to these realities, they can discover the pathway to removing the blocks.

This type of change ideology starts from the very top levels of an organization. It comes from leaders who are emotionally self-aware. Successful CEO leadership requires an aptitude to understand others – what drives them emotionally and personally. These relational competencies rest on a foundation of self-knowledge and self-awareness. In essence, you can't know the truth about another without knowing it about yourself.

Self-awareness, and the relational aspects of knowing who you are, both play an integral part in a CEO's ability to formulate, articulate and lead employees who feel energized and emotionally supported. It creates clarity regarding corporate objectives and fine-tunes understanding. When this is missing in leadership there is uncertainty and lack of unity throughout the organization.

The Importance of Building Self-Awareness
Employees look to C-Level executives to motivate and inspire them towards a positive outcome. However, in order to be effective in this area, it is crucial for a leader to have a strong self-awareness. This requires an executive to have a firm understanding of their emotional strengths, their personal weaknesses, morals and beliefs, outlook, character traits and any habits or conflicts that might be blocking them from realizing success. A successful executive understands that what they bring to their position is not just about business smarts, but rather an entire package that all plays into their strengths and weaknesses.

In an article in Harvard Business Review, Scott Keller, suggests that many leaders do not believe they are a part of the problem within their organizations. He states that "deep down, (leaders) do not believe that it is they who need to change." However, this attitude is exactly what is holding them back. Keller notes that the "real bottleneck to role modeling is knowing what to change at a personal level.” In essence, a self-aware leader can recognize what personal behaviors they need to adjust to be a positive influence for change at an organizational level.

Self-Awareness Skills for the Effective Leader
Self-awareness allows leaders to identify the gaps in their management skills and uncover the areas in which they are most effective. These understandings aid them in making discerning decisions, and help them be more effective in motivating employees. Learning to be aware of yourself isn't always easy, but mastering it can go far to improve leadership skills. Here are seven ways executives can work to improve their level of self-awareness.

• Open your mind to other possibilities. Successful leaders are curious. They are open to new ideas and welcome new thoughts. This openness also makes others feel supported and accepted as a valued team member.
• Know your strengths and weaknesses. Leaders who are self-aware know the areas in which they are strong and those which need some work. Being honest about these strengths and shortcomings puts leaders in a position for improvement and growth.
• Be aware of what is happening around you. As a leader it is crucial to keep your focus. There are a lot of things that vie for a leader’s time. A self-aware executive will understand areas of distraction and steer clear of them so that they can concentrate on what they need to do to move forward.
• Know your limitations and set appropriate boundaries. A successful leader knows their place. While it is important to make connections and make people feel comfortable and supported, it is easy to get taken advantage of in these situations if you don’t have a firm stance. Boundaries help leaders to know when to say “no” and will allow them to operate from a position of respect and integrity.
• Know what sets you off. Even the best leaders can get rattled in stressful situations. An emotionally aware leader is able to identify the situations that might cause them to have a strong reaction. It is okay to show emotion in leadership, however, it is important to have the ability to fully process them before communicating with others.
• Understand your gut instinct. People who are successful in business have a strong connection with their intuition. They trust their feelings and are able to make appropriate decisions based on them.
• Be self-disciplined. A respected leader is one that demonstrates discipline within their position as well as in their lives. This level of discipline is tied closely to their integrity and moral character and garners respect from those around them.

At Academy of Leadership Coaching & NLP one of our passions is coaching C-level executives so they are able to be more effective in their role. If you would like more information on how to build self-awareness among your leadership team or are interested in exploring a leadership coaching programming within your organization, please feel free to contact us.

Author's Bio: 

A 20-year veteran of the coach training and leadership development field, Helen guides people past inner and outer obstacles to realize dreams at any scale. The only question is, how far do you want to go?

At the Academy of Leadership Coaching & NLP, Helen trains students in all aspects of coaching— from business coaching to life coaching, executive and leadership coaching—helping coaches from around the world achieve their visions, dreams, and wildest adventures. She also works with entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and leaders from diverse fields of industry on achieving next-level growth and wide-ranging positive change.

Helen took over the NLP Coach Training Program from the NLP Institute of California in 2009. Since then, she has built the company to match her vision of an international coach training program that gives students the highest ICF credentials and combines ICF’s pure coaching model with powerful NLP coaching techniques. ALCN also offers leadership development programs and customized coach training programs for companies wishing to build a coaching culture.

Helen herself is credentialed by the ICF as a Master Certified Coach, a level of skill and experience shared by only 1 percent of coaches worldwide. In her private coaching practice Helen currently works with leaders from around the globe who are seeking accelerated personal and professional growth. Prior to becoming President of ALCN, Helen was the Graduate Director and a Coach for the Hoffman Institute and an International Trainer for the NLP Institute of California. She trained in the tools and technologies developed by Tony Robbins and was a Master Results Coach for the Anthony Robbins Company, coaching CEOs and executives internationally. She was also Facilitator/Coach for Womensquest Outdoor Adventure Company where she shared her passion for the outdoors.

Helen has presented on NLP and Leadership at Stanford Graduate School of Business and at Peking University Platform in Beijing. She is a featured author in the book Ready, Aim, Influence!, an international bestseller in the top 10 of Amazon’s Hot Releases in the Business & Investing section.

Born and raised in Ireland, Helen has traveled extensively and worked her way through Europe, the Middle East, North America, Central America, Asia, and Australia.