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Srinath Sridharan

Strategic counsel for over 27 years, with leading corporates across diverse sectors. Independent Director across multiple sectors. Advises organisations on the intersection of finance, digital, consumption economy, GEMZ (Gig Economy, Millennials, gen Z) & ESG. Coaches & mentors senior leaders. Active engagement across industry-growth policy conversations & public policy issues. Visiting faculty at various management schools and with regulatory learning centres. Prolific media columnist across topics he works with. He is also the Editor and co-author of ‘Time for Bharat’ (book on public governance). Visiting Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. Posts all published work at

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Self-awareness And Self-confidence. Core Of Leadership

Youngsters who cultivate these traits not only stand out as leaders but also excel in collaborative endeavours, driving innovation and progress in their organisations

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"The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance." - Nathaniel Branden

Shivaji (Maharaj), in the 17th Century, as a young leader aspiring to establish a Maratha kingdom, faced the formidable Afzal Khan – a ruthless adversary, dispatched by the Adil Shahi dynasty to crush Shivaji's burgeoning rebellion. Through introspection, Shivaji found self-confidence rooted in self-awareness. He donned distinctive attire and prepared to face Afzal Khan, who underestimated him. He delved into his soul, seeking clarity amidst the storm of doubts. He realised self-confidence was not a mere façade but an embodiment of his experiences, values, and unwavering commitment to his people. As the day of reckoning approached, Shivaji emerged, donned in a war turban adorned with intricate patterns, and carrying a 'bichwa' dagger. His attire symbolised his Maratha identity, radiating an air of unshakable determination. When the two adversaries met, Afzal Khan, oozing arrogance, sought to intimidate Shivaji with his imposing stature. Yet, Shivaji stood undaunted, his newfound self-confidence emitting a palpable force. In a cunning move, Shivaji embraced Afzal Khan and fatally struck him, revealing his self-assured leadership. This victory solidified his legend and propelled him toward establishing a powerful Maratha empire, driven by his commitment to his people's welfare. His journey of self-discovery and self-confidence became the cornerstone of his reign.

In the ever-evolving landscape of leadership, one timeless truth remains: effective leadership begins with a deep sense of self-awareness and self-confidence. In the 21st century, the traits of self-awareness and self-confidence have become not just desirable but critical for effective leadership. The rapid pace of technological advancements, global interconnectedness, and the emergence of unprecedented challenges demand leaders who can adapt, innovate, and make principled decisions in a constantly shifting landscape. When these two qualities are nurtured and developed, they contribute significantly to a leader's success in guiding their organisation toward its goals.

Self-awareness enables leaders to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics, foster collaboration, and connect with diverse teams. At the same time, self-confidence empowers them to lead with conviction, even when faced with ambiguity and uncertainty. In this era of constant change, leaders who possess these foundational traits are not only better equipped to guide their organisations and communities but also to inspire and empower others to rise above challenges and seize opportunities in a dynamic and unpredictable world. Self-aware leaders are authentic and genuine in their interactions. They are comfortable with who they are and do not try to be someone they're not. This authenticity fosters trust and credibility among team members.

A self-confident leader doesn't waver in the face of adversity or criticism. They are unafraid to make tough decisions when necessary, knowing that their choices align with their beliefs and values. This unwavering confidence can help a team weather a storm and stay on course, even in the most uncertain times. However, there can be a lack of confidence at times. For instance, when someone is in a new role an ‘Impostor syndrome’ often surfaces. This can include starting a new job, being promoted to a leadership position, or entering a different field of study. The uncertainty and unfamiliarity of these situations can trigger self-doubt. It is not surprising to feel nervous. In these new roles, the incumbent may perceive a significant gap between their current knowledge and skills and what they believe is expected of them. This gap can be real or imagined and is often exaggerated by the individual's critical self-assessment. Here, being Self-aware (acknowledging your feelings of self-doubt, recognising that it's a common experience, and reframing your thoughts to focus on your accomplishments and strengths even while seeking mentorship and support from others) can boost Self-confidence and help overcome the impostor syndrome. Self-efficacy, a concept introduced by psychologist Albert Bandura, is closely related to self-confidence. Research has demonstrated that individuals with high self-efficacy tend to have greater self-confidence in specific domains, as they believe in their ability to accomplish tasks and overcome obstacles.

Tasha Eurich, an organisational psychologist and author identifies two types of self-awareness:

Internal Self-Awareness: This refers to understanding our thoughts, feelings, values, and passions. It involves introspection and self-reflection.

External Self-Awareness: This involves understanding how others perceive us. It includes being aware of our impact on others, as well as seeking and accepting feedback from others.

Interestingly, she refers to the Self-Awareness Blind Spot which occurs when individuals believe they are more self-aware than they are. Many people overestimate their level of self-awareness, and this can hinder personal growth and success.

Towards Developing Self-Confidence

Developing self-awareness and self-confidence is not an overnight process. People have barriers including fear of feedback, lack of introspection, and the tendency to avoid discomfort. It requires introspection, feedback, and a commitment to personal growth. Leaders can engage in mindfulness, journaling, and seeking feedback from peers and mentors to deepen their self-awareness. Confidence can be nurtured by setting and achieving small goals, celebrating successes, and learning from failures.

This holds immense relevance for the burgeoning population of youngsters who constitute a significant portion of the Indian workforce. In a rapidly evolving talent market, where innovation and adaptability are paramount, self-awareness and self-confidence are indispensable for young professionals. As they embark on their careers, they often encounter situations that require them to assert themselves, navigate complex workplace dynamics, and make decisions with conviction. Moreover, in a world marked by digital interconnectedness and global competition, the ability to understand their strengths and weaknesses, as well as how others perceive them, can be a game-changer. Youngsters who cultivate these traits not only stand out as leaders but also excel in collaborative endeavours, driving innovation and progress in their organisations. In essence, self-awareness and self-confidence empower the youth to not only thrive in their careers but also become catalysts for positive change in India's workforce and beyond.

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leadership Shivaji Shivaji University