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The Single Worst Leadership Trait

The most difficult people to deal with are those who lack self-awareness.

Don’t be a leader who lacks self-awareness

“We are all just as bad at assessing our skills and abilities, and like Drew, we don’t even realize it.”

I came across this article on Twitter. Ray Dalio, Bridgewater CEO and best-selling author, commented on the lack of self-awareness:

Dalio’s Bridgewater has a unique — some say extreme — culture of radical truth and radical transparency. You can read more about it here.

In my experience, the most difficult people to deal with are those who lack self-awareness. They are so difficult because their system of truth is one-way; without knowing and improving their own limitations, they project all shortcomings on others.

Dalio knows this. Bridgewater has created a system that forces people to provide and receive radical truth in a way that would unacceptable at other organizations. The stories — good, bad, and ugly — are legion.

Most people who lack self-awareness don’t make it very far. Colleagues dislike them, and over time they become isolated.

But occasionally, the self-unaware person makes it through the system. He becomes more than a team member; he becomes the team leader.

If most of us slightly overestimate our abilities, this guy — whose actions have been rewarded, sending a strong yet misleading signal — is a whole different animal.

He doesn’t request feedback, nor can receive it. He stops learning. He mistreats people, including his closest team members. He thinks breaking morale makes him strong. He becomes toxic.

Why does this matter?

Because we are quickly moving into a world where the ability to attract and retain talent will be the great differentiator.

As we see on Pennsylvania Avenue, leaders without self-awareness won’t get very far — and won’t be respected by very many — by going it alone.