How to Use the Johari Window to Improve Leadership

Johari WindowBeing an effective leader requires many things, including building safe environments for team members, facilitating positive emotions, and providing accountability and motivation (to name a few)!

Arguably though, some of the most important skills required of leaders and managers are self-awareness and good communication. Yet these can often be the most difficult competencies to master.

In this article, we discuss the Johari window as a helpful model for building self-awareness and ultimately improving leadership. We cover the science behind the Johari window, its practical applications, and the benefits leaders and managers can expect, before signposting several resources and exercises to help you begin your journey of personal reflection and growth.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Leadership Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or others adopt positive leadership practices and help organizations thrive.

The Johari Window: A Definition

The Johari window is a model of self-awareness within interpersonal relationships developed by psychologists Luft and Ingham (1955) in the 1950s and 60s.

Originally designed as a heuristic exercise, the Johari window’s primary aims are to improve self-awareness and communication and help individuals better understand their own and others’ behavior.

Importantly, the model can relate to any type of interpersonal or group relationship (e.g., among family, friends, colleagues, leaders, and team members), and it can apply to a wide range of contexts and settings, including leadership and management training.

The model is based on the idea that interactions and relationships between individuals depend on the contributions each party makes, similar to interdependence theory (Kelley & Thibaut; 1978).

All interactions therefore require a degree of self- and other knowledge and disclosure of information between individuals. Below, we outline the Johari window matrix, which comprises four quadrants, and provide details on each.

  • Arena
    The first quadrant of the Johari window refers to what is known to ourselves and to others. This is our visible character and can include behaviors, traits, or qualities that we are well known for.
  • Blind spot
    The second quadrant refers to what is known to others but not known to ourselves. This is our blind spot and can include qualities or behaviors that we are unaware of.
  • Facade (mask)
    The third quadrant refers to what is known to ourselves but not known to others. This is what we choose to conceal from others and can include qualities or behaviors that we don’t readily share with others.
  • Unknown/Unconscious
    The last quadrant refers to what is not known to either ourselves or others. This refers to untapped potential that has yet to emerge.

Change is a key principle of the Johari window, particularly as relationships and groups do not remain static but rather evolve and shift over time. For example, the first quadrant (the arena) can increase significantly in size as more information becomes known to the self and to others.

The opposite holds true for the second quadrant (blind spot), which can decrease in size as more information becomes apparent to the self. When an individual engages in self-disclosure and reveals a hidden aspect of the self to another, the third quadrant (facade) can also diminish in size.

Uncovering and reducing the size of the fourth quadrant (unknown) is less clear and could occur via a variety of methods and activities, including deep reflection such as meditation. As such, the Johari window can be thought of as a dynamic model of possibilities, growth, and transformation.

How Does the Johari Window Work?

How the Johari Window worksThe Johari window’s primary function is to help individuals develop an awareness of themselves, and it operates by using two important processes: disclosure and feedback.


Disclosure requires individuals to engage in self-disclosure of thoughts and feelings to a relational partner, but also to pursue disclosure facilitation in their relational partner (such that the relational partner feels safe enough to reveal their thoughts and feelings).

In the workplace, this might look like managers or leaders sharing information about themselves with their team, which can be a positive way to encourage and facilitate reciprocal sharing.


Feedback requires individuals to invite or solicit feedback from others in order to enhance self-knowledge, as well as to provide feedback to others to enhance their knowledge too.

In the workplace, this might look like managers or leaders seeking feedback from different members of their team and providing feedback to their team members in turn.

This process of giving and receiving allows individuals within any type of interpersonal relationship to identify blind spots and support each other’s personal growth.

Download 3 Free Positive Leadership Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or others to adopt positive leadership practices to help individuals, teams and organizations to thrive.

Benefits of Using the Johari Window Concept

The key benefit of using the Johari window is improved self-awareness and communication, the combination of which provides an additional bonus of improved teamwork.

1. Improved self-awareness

For leaders, self-awareness is one of the most important skills to work on. It should be a muscle that you are working constantly in order to ensure you’re connected to your team and leading with humility.

Leaders with higher self-awareness tend to be more successful and achieve better outcomes, including performance metrics (Ashley & Reiter-Palmon, 2012).

Having high levels of self-awareness is especially vital in difficult conversations, and leaders should consider their behavioral patterns when preparing for such inevitable conversations.

2. Improved communication

Just as self-awareness is important for leadership, so too is communication. Self-awareness and communication enjoy a symbiotic relationship, where improvement in one often garners improvement in the other.

Leaders with good communication skills can convey messages clearly and lean into empathy, authenticity, and vulnerability when doing so. Indeed, individuals who embody this type of positive leadership style have excellent communication skills, communicating in a supportive and empowering manner (Cameron, 2008) and delivering feedback constructively (Davenport et al., 2016).

3. Improved teamwork

When managers and leaders display high levels of self-awareness and adept communication skills, the knock-on effect is often an improvement to the interpersonal and group relationships around them, including better teamwork. For example, when leaders communicate effectively, they can motivate and galvanize their team toward a shared goal, with a greater chance of success (Zaccaro et al., 2001).

As we can see, the advantages to be gained from using the Johari window can be broad and powerful, particularly for team cohesion and performance.

How to Use the Johari Window (Free PDF)

Benefits of the Johari WindowAt first glance, the Johari window can appear to be somewhat abstract, and it might not be immediately clear to leaders or organizations how it can and should be used.

Below, we identify three key ways to use the Johari window to enhance self-awareness and provide a free Johari Window exercise.

  1. Identifying blind spots
    To notice their blind spots using the Johari window, individuals must seek feedback to reveal the traits and behaviors that they commonly use but are not fully aware of.
  2. Diminishing the facade
    To allow others a greater chance to know them, individuals can endeavor to reveal any hidden aspects of themselves and lean into their authentic selves. In doing so, the facade can be significantly reduced.
  3. Enhancing communication
    To boost those all-important communications skills, individuals can actively engage in empathetic listening and other good communication practices when discussing feedback with team members and colleagues.
What is the johari window coaching tool (step-by-step guide)

Check out this video for more details on how the Johari window works as an exercise.

Challenges and Recommendations for the Johari Window

There is real potential for the Johari window to be used as a jumping-off point for building self-awareness in new managers and leaders in organizations.

Beyond leadership specifically, the Johari window can be a helpful individual exercise for all colleagues and team members across any organization. However, there are some caveats to be mindful of when thinking about using the Johari window at work.

  1. Lack of coherent evidence base
    Despite being developed over 60 years ago, there is surprisingly little evidence of its use and benefits in organizations and leadership, and the evidence that exists is located in disparate fields.

While this urges some caution, it also shows a promising gap where more research can add serious value to organizational behavior and psychology.

  1. Measurement
    There have been some criticisms around how the Johari window is measured.

Historically, applying the Johari window involves deep introspection (i.e., an individual reflects on their own subjective experience and behaviors). However, given that the window is about self-awareness within interpersonal relationships, the lack of assessment captured by the other individual in the relationship is a considerable shortcoming.

As per the theory of interdependence in relationships (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978), each individual has a significant bearing on each other’s experiences and outcomes in any given interaction.

For instance, an individual may want to disclose (or conceal) parts of themselves to the relational partner if their needs are met (or frustrated) by said partner. Because of this, results tend to be based at the individual level, subjective, and difficult to interpret.

  1. Repressed information
    The “unknown” quadrant of the Johari window could include subconscious or repressed information, particularly from traumatic past experiences.

As such, there is the potential that actively using the Johari window could lead to an increase of discomfort or even psychological distress for individuals. If individuals do not have the resources to deal with such emerging parts of the self, this can have dire consequences.

Therefore, it is strongly recommended that individuals are provided with sufficient aftercare (this could be as coaching or therapy), and the Johari window should not be used as a substitute for proper clinical care.

  1. Company culture
    The degree to which individuals in an organization can share their authentic selves (in order to minimize the facade) is actually determined by the culture of the organization.

If the organization does not foster a culture of psychological safety, then employees will not feel able to be authentic, and so there will be a limit to the positive impact the Johari window can have.

While the Johari window is often used as an individual exercise, individuals exist within wider systems or structures of power, which can have a significant bearing on the usefulness of the Johari window.

Due to these shortcomings, individuals should be vigilant when using the Johari window. Yes, it can be an insightful exercise, but to get the most out of the exercise, it is recommended that individuals use the Johari window in conjunction with other helpful tools, practices, and exercises.

For example, if you are a new leader, completing the Johari window exercise will give you a good sign of your current communication and self-awareness skill levels.

At that point, various options are available to improve your communication skills. As a starting point, consider reading this Communication Exercises for Work article.

Resources From

If you are interested in exercises that can boost your leadership skills in tandem with the Johari window, check out some of these excellent resources from

This Self-Awareness Worksheet for Adults is an excellent reflective activity to deepen self-awareness. Individuals are asked a series of questions about various aspects of the self, including strengths, weaknesses, talents, skills, what is important, what you are proud of, and what you want to achieve in life.

The exercise could be paired with this quick and easy 3-Step Mindfulness Worksheet, which invites you to take a break and be in the present moment, bringing full attention to the here and now. We know mindfulness is a foolproof way to build self-awareness and is worth serious consideration by all leaders and managers.

For more information on the contours of positive leadership and the skills required, you might find the following articles insightful. They include excellent tips on how to deliver positive feedback, positive leadership training options, and tips for effective positive reinforcement strategies in the workplace.

Lastly, these 17 Work and Career Exercises have been scientifically researched and developed and can benefit any leader seeking to improve their skills or the skills of their team. It is an incredible collection of insightful worksheets that can benefit any organization.

A Take-Home Message

In an ever-changing work landscape, effective leadership is more important than ever. Being proactive about building positive leadership skills is therefore vital for any emerging or established manager or leader.

Of all the skills leaders need to conquer, self-awareness remains an absolute must-have and can have a host of knock-on benefits for performance. The Johari window can be a powerful tool to aid managers and leaders in highlighting key skill areas that require more development.

Armed with this new information, leaders and individuals can look at alternatives to further build their communication and interpersonal skills.

Exercises such as active listening, mindful communication training, compassion training, and empathy training are fruitful avenues.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Leadership Exercises for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Known to others/known to self = arena
  2. Known to others/not known to self = blindspot
  3. Not known to others/known to self = facade
  4. Not known to others/not known to self = unknown
  1. Build self-awareness
  2. Improve communication
  3. Improve teamwork

The Johari window was developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (1955). They combined their first names to name the Johari window model.

Individuals have the capacity for personal growth if they seek feedback from others about themselves, and relationships have the capacity for growth if individuals are willing to engage in reciprocal disclosure with each other.

  • Ashley, G. C., & Reiter-Palmon, R. (2012). Self-awareness and the evolution of leaders: The need for a better measure of self-awareness. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 14(1), 2–17.
  • Cameron, K. S. (2008). Positive leadership: Strategies for extraordinary performance. Berrett-Koehler.
  • Davenport, L. J., Allisey, A. F., Page, K. M., LaMontagne, A. D., & Reavley, N. J. (2016). How can organisations help employees thrive? The development of guidelines for promoting positive mental health at work. International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 9(4), 411–427.
  • Kelley, H. H., & Thibaut, J. W. (1978). Interpersonal relations: A theory of interdependence. Wiley.
  • Luft, J., & Ingham, H. (1955). The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness. Proceedings of the Western Training Laboratory in Group Development, 246.
  • Zaccaro, S. J., Rittman, A. L., & Marks, M. A. (2001). Team leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 12(4), 451–483.

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