Self-Awareness, the Killer Leadership App

Increasingly, the executives I know are running harder and harder just to keep up. I liken them to the hamster running on his exercise wheel. A friend of mine says these executives are being “gerbilized.“

Are you being “gerbalized”?  If so, what can you do about it?  The first most powerful thing you can do is install the killer leadership app; Self-Awareness.  

A first dimension of Self-Awareness is preparation – knowing yourself. As Peter Drucker observed, “Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves – their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.” But knowing yourself is not nearly enough.

The more challenging dimension of Self-Awareness is seeing yourself in real time. Real time Self-Awareness requires developing internal spaciousness to surround your thoughts and emotions. Spaciousness allows you to both be in the action and have that space necessary to choose your response. You can then observe your physical and emotional reactions to situations and people and choose how to respond. The bigger your challenges and the higher your stakes the more challenging and important real-time awareness becomes.

With practice, you can learn to respond skillfully under pressure. You can also learn to focus single-mindedly on your single highest priority. You will accomplish more by doing less but with greater intention and attention. Developing real time Self-Awareness is similar to growing muscle; it requires exercise. And you can use a wide range  “off field” exercises such as: meditation, yoga, and martial arts to build your real time Self-Awareness muscle.  But most important, you need to exercise your mindfulness and awareness in real time as you go about your day.  

Taking Action: To improve your self-awareness you can experiment with a powerful method that I use.  I divide my time into 25 and 50 minute work segments with recovery time in between.  I begin each segment with a clear intention on my highest priority task, I ground and presence myself, and proceed with awareness (I am both focused and hold the mental space to watch what I am doing).  I apply this approach to both individual and group tasks.  And I debrief with myself or my team after each segment.  I also cheat.  I get automatic feedback using a sensor, Spire, which monitors my breathing and tells me whether I was focused, calm or tense.

Posted by David Sherman

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