The beginning of leadership wisdom is to know thyself

April 28, 2022

At the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the ancients were said to have carved 147 aphorisms (or “general truths”) into the pillars of the forecourt. The most famous is the shortest and, likely, the truest: “Know thyself.”


Self-knowledge is the beginning of leadership wisdom.


But how do you develop it? Well, some people are lucky – they seem to naturally understand who they are and of what they are capable. They seem aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They know how they affect people. They hone their awareness and make use of it on a daily basis. We have all met people like this. Their “self-hood” is why we’re drawn to them. They seem to shine.


But for most people who excel in matters of self-knowledge, a choice must be made and a practice must be developed. Self-awareness is practice or a habit that must be cultivated over time. A person must choose to be aware of themselves and to approach this with a sort of scientific detachment. Rather than just bounding through their days, such a person becomes increasingly aware of the effects of and the relationship between their feelings, thinking and actions. They don’t just think and act. They think, they act, they feel and they reflect on it. They might think to themselves, “Wow, I just did this thing and it made me feel a certain way” or “I said something yesterday and it seemed to turn people off.” You probably get the picture. It all starts with a willingness to cultivate objectivity in our daily lives. Then we build from there. It’s sort of a perpetual state of life R&D (research and development).


Give it a try and start tracking some progress in a journal or diary. Can you just once in a day find yourself being more aware of your self-awareness? Can you do it twice in a day? Three times?


Now you are on the ancient Delphic path.


Onward and upward.