Plain and simply put, “To be an effective leader you need to understand yourself as well as your impact on others.”

Everywhere you look, it’s easy to see examples of leaders who charge ahead, adopting a take-no-prisoners stance. These leaders then often are taken by surprise when they find that they are standing alone. Perhaps they just don’t care–you’ll hear them say, “It’s the cost of doing business.”

I shake my head when I witness this approach to so-called “leadership.” Perhaps they believe they can easily replace anyone who falls out along the way. Maybe they can, but of course there’s a price to pay in terms of lost momentum, lost brain trust, lost talent, lost loyalty, etc. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Look around again, and you’ll find inspirational leaders who are influencing their businesses and society in more productive ways. They are strong in their values; they are steadfast in their vision; they are open to learning; they are inclusive in their leadership approach. You see, they know that you don’t really build something great without great people and that great people expect to have great leaders.

These leaders understand that real power lies in understanding themselves. When they do, they can then harness their strengths and shore up their vulnerabilities. These leaders invite feedback to make sure their self-portrait is an accurate interpretation and not clouded by egoic self-aggrandizement. These leaders take seriously the work that goes into achieving a level of self-understanding that can be harnessed for the good and the success of all.

As I’ve learned time and time again, “Self-awareness never becomes habitual.” That statement, that truth, reminds me of the commitment and effort involved in true self- awareness, in the work of uncovering our personal blind spots–which others see clearly and we often miss. The work of self-honesty can be a bit unnerving as we discover our sometimes graceless, unconscious agendas, the work of forgiving and moving on, of not holding grudges, and of giving second chances. Yet, the payoff for this self-development work is plentiful and truly worth the price. This is a journey taken by the brave ones, the courageous leaders who will have built a legacy at the end of the day, the ones who certainly won’t find themselves standing alone.

By Mary Anne Wampler