With Great Self-Knowledge Comes Great Leadership

by | Oct 29, 2023 | Trend

Hi everyone, 

Last week I was part of a panel discussion for the Beyond Lean In book tour. We spoke about the importance of “Real Talk” when it comes to women and leadership. As a psychologist, “real talks” are the essence of my work. So, unsurprisingly, I chose to focus my spiel on how understanding and possessing self-knowledge can positively impact the way you lead others, and lead your life.   

Today I want to share a bit from that discussion. I believe self-knowledge can help you be a better leader at work, at home, in your social circles, or anywhere else that you need to show up and take the lead. 

An integral part of any therapy session is to provide you with the self-knowledge and insight you need to get clarity on your own psychology. What gets you up in the morning? What are common emotional or thought patterns you have? What energizes you? Having the answers to questions like these can help you get closer to the end goal: to be happier and, as a result, a more effective leader.

Going Beyond Conventional Psychotherapy 

In my early years of working, I was very focused on a conventional view of psychotherapy: decreasing people’s pain. Whatever they struggled with…I helped them reduce their anxiety, depression, fear etc. 

But soon, I realized that even though I was able to decrease someone’s pain–and as a result have a positive effect on their level of happiness–I did not necessarily teach them how to be happier. Or even more importantly, how to optimize their happiness

In other words, I was focusing on what doesn’t work well with my clients, rather than also focusing on what does work well. We knew what their weaknesses were, but what about their strengths? How could they use more of their strengths? What could increase their positive and creative energy? Their focus? And so on. 

So, I started playing around with the concept of what it means to be a happier being. About how you can make intentional choices to take care of your whole being…your mental, emotional, and physical self.

Taking Care of Your Whole Being

As a leader, your role is not only to empower others with knowledge, but to facilitate them with the opportunity to operationalize it. I once worked at an outpatient mental health clinic. There I led group therapy for a number of courageous souls who struggled with their mental health. 

During our group time, I’d talked many times about the importance of movement and the outdoors for well-being. But, as is usually the case in clinical settings, the group sessions were held indoors, sitting down in a circle on comfy chairs. I thought to myself, this isn’t taking care of their whole selves.

So, to drive the message home, I decided to go beyond the usual practice. I made up a new conditional rule. Those who wanted to participate in the group had to go on a group walk with me before each session. We called it “The Walking Club.” 

Unsurprisingly, over time I noticed improvements in the patients’ moods. Many of them started showing up for The Walking Club earlier than scheduled. Some came to my room prior, confirming that the walk was still happening each day. It was obvious to them too, that the physical effort had a positive psychological ripple effect. I was proud of their participation and thankful that just a little bit of walking showed marked improvements in their overall well-being. 

Next Steps for Happier Beings

  1. Remember, team care starts with self-care: Whether you lead a team, a family, or a volunteer group, figure out ways to lower your own stress. It could be walking, running, spa days, meditation…whatever it is! When you practice these self-care habits, you can be a happier and healthier version of yourself and excel as a leader.
  2. Be an authentic leader: First, figure out what being an authentic leader means to you. Does it resonate with you? And if so, how do you want to apply it at work versus with peers, or versus with family? Determine what you’re comfortable sharing, what you demand of yourself, and others. Being intentional in your leadership choices can help you become the leader you want to be. 
  3. Appreciate others’ effort and progress: People love to be recognized and appreciated for their efforts. It shows them that you value their contribution and helps you build a stronger connection. As a result, this mutually beneficial practice can lead to a more engaged and motivated team.  
  4. Find a mentor: Find someone whose leadership style appeals to you and learn as much as you can from them. There are so many experts out there who have tons of leadership experience. They can give you the tidbits of advice they wish they’d gotten sooner.


Dr. Tal

PS Here’s the newsletter version of this blog post.



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