Communication, people-focus, thinking ahead, pragmatism and a plethora of qualities top the list of essential skills a leader should develop. With so much to choose from, it can be daunting to make the right choices in terms of leadership development.

However, there is one thing you can do to propel yourself on the path to great leadership and it’s not to sign up for yet another leadership course!

In fact, it’s so simple that you’d be tempted to roll your eyes at the thought!

The silver bullet in your leadership arsenal is self-awareness. Hold your horses! This is not about meditation or mysticism. It’s just plain data analysis to come up with action items.

You, of all people know yourself better than your team, your boss, your clients and your peers. In addition, you’re constantly bombarded with feedback from peers. This data from your work day (that you often replay in your mind) can help you become a better leader.

All it takes is few hours of retrospect of good, bad and the ugly (most of us have no problem recollecting the last part!)

Here’s how we go about this..

Information gathering: Comments from your peers, your appraisal feedback, criticism and your ideas on what you think needs to change will come in handy. The quality of our conclusion depends on the quality of the information we have. So, it’s safe to ignore the one-time comment from your ex-boss who’s known to talk disparagingly of all your peers.

Analysis: This is where you separate the wheat from the chaff. Since this is the most error prone phase, it would help get a colleague or friend help validate your conclusions.

I have known leaders who were technically competent but felt they had to improve on that front. On the other hand, some had pathetic communication skills but had no clue that they were a communication disaster. These are examples of error due to low or high self-esteem.

This is not necessarily a pleasant exercise…you might feel like you’re forced a mouthful of spinach. It is crucial to stay open, get emotions out of the way and focus on facts without being defensive.

Hang in there — you’re on your way to becoming a better version of yourself!

It’s all about choosing to be bold enough to face facts while looking vulnerable in front of few colleagues or to be the next “water cooler conversation topic”.

Truth be told, your colleagues already know your flaws if they’ve known you long enough. It’s high time that you as a leader identify and correct them. They will be pleasantly surprised to see you change for the better.

Action Items: From your analysis, you’d have to come up with action items. Say, work on improving your people focus or your written communication.

Action is the foundational key to all success, so make sure to get the ball rolling. Start small and you’d be surprised at the results.

Originally published at on January 13, 2017.