Are leaders fully conscious at work? They may seem conscious, but are they are in fact behaving unconsciously or habitually? Are they just acting out a combination of their personality and the skills that have brought them success in the past?
With many organisations now experiencing high levels of complexity, uncertainty and change, their leaders need to be perceptive, agile and creative. Those who remain covered by a blanket of unconscious habitual behaviours, applying old solutions to new problems, are increasingly likely to derail and negatively impact on the performance of their organisation.
So what’s the answer? Awareness! Three stages of awareness to be precise: -
- Self Awareness
- Reflective Awareness
Each stage of awareness lays the foundations for the next. Progress through the stages enables the leader to realise higher levels of consciousness and break the habitual behaviours.
Stage 1 - Self Awareness
This stage focuses on helping leaders to understand and recognise the type of behaviour they are likely to demonstrate as a result of their personality. Psychometrics, such as the MBTI, 16PF, or OPQ, will give the leader a good understanding of their authentic personality and habitual behaviour. To further develop leaders need to be able to transcend the constraints of their personality and contact a deeper place of authenticity associated with their values.
Stage 2 – Reflective Awareness
Once leaders have received their personality profiles they often ask: “So what? What am I supposed to do with this now?” This is a very valid question if the development process has been designed to stop at this stage as is often the case. Developing leaders should be encouraged to move on to stage 2 (reflective awareness) where they can periodically reflect on their behaviour in different situations. An excellent method for this stage is the use of ‘Reflective Learning Logs’. Typically, leaders would ask themselves questions about key events in the day such as: -
- What was the situation?
- How did I behave and was it appropriate to the situation?
- Was my behaviour out of habit or was it conscious choice?
- What was the impact of my behaviour?
- What have I learnt?
Stage 3 – Mindfulness
The continued practice of Reflective Learning Logs often leads to the emergence of ‘mindfulness’. It is at this stage that the leader is able to witness their own behaviour in the present moment. Mindfulness is often termed ‘reflexive awareness’. ‘meta-awareness’ or ‘witness consciousness’. An aspect of mindfulness is ‘Metacogntion’, which is a higher order thinking which involves active conscious control over the cognitive processes engaged in problem solving, decision making, and learning. Metacognition enables leaders to be successful learners, and has been associated with higher levels of intelligence.
The ascent to the highest stage in awareness gives the leader a tremendous strength in self regulation. Consequently, the leader is better able to determine the most suitable behaviour for the situation. At this stage leaders have become fully conscious and aware at work. A leader is no longer in danger of applying old solutions to new problems when under pressure, but instead can view threats and opportunities with clarity, allowing for innovative solutions and business success.
Terry Sexton, Business Psychologist