Are You a Conscious Leader?

“I get things done, isn’t that enough?”

Ever heard someone in a leadership position say that? If you have, then it’s an odds-on bet that they were pretty much unconscious at work, caught in their habits and patterns. Whether unaware of the impact they have on others or simply unwilling to change, they were missing the two critical factors in being a great leader: self awareness and emotional intelligence.

Self awareness is simple enough to understand. It’s the ability to be mindful or conscious of your behaviour. What do you do? How you do it? Why you do it? It’s all about you.

The second part of the equation is emotional intelligence. It’s not only the ability to recognise, understand and manage your emotions, but also the capacity to recognise, understand and empathise with the emotions of others.

“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and also that difficult.” – Warren Bennis, internationally acclaimed leadership authority and author

Research has made it clear that most of your actions (up to 95%) are driven by your limbic brain. In practice that means the first impulse for action arises from the emotional centre of your brain. This impulse will usually be fight or flight. That’s where the unconscious leader is trapped, hostage to a series of habits and patterns designed to subtly manage the fight or flight response.

An unconscious leader is likely to be:

  • blindsided by the parts of themselves they don’t want to see,
  • inflexibly focused on ‘what works’ for them, a paradigm developed to control the world around them so as to get what they need and avoid what they consider bad,
  • totally identified with their persona (or ego or self image), the person they want others to see.

“All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.” – James Thurber

You won’t be surprised to hear the leader stuck in that loop is increasingly poorly equipped for any leadership role. ‘Below the line’ behaviours simply don’t work and are mostly what you get from an unconscious leader.

The good news is that, while it’s always uncomfortable if done properly, the two leadership essentials of self awareness and emotional intelligence can be developed. For those uncertain about committing to truly understanding themselves and taking responsibility for all of their reactions and outcomes, a shallow adventure into self discovery and understanding will be most attractive.

But for the leader who aspires to be transformative, to find the most effective strategy to get optimal results and build relationships, the deeper dive awaits. Becoming painfully aware of their assumptions, emotions and motivations is the only choice. This requires the building of muscles of mindfulness and being present, to catch yourself when you begin to do things by rote, do what’s easiest, and ignore what’s going on under the surface.

“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” – EE Cummings

The transformational journey also needs a compass: an easy way-in to understanding why you do what you do. Luckily, the Enneagram provides the perfect pathway to not only rich self awareness, but also to psychological development. Sometimes called ‘the MBTI of the 21st century’, the Enneagram provides detailed and actionable information that is completely aligned with the latest neuroscience and cognitive psychology.

And so the choice is yours. Are you up for it? Will you take the challenge of becoming a transformative and conscious leader? If you’re committed to leave this planet a better place than when you arrived, take the challenge. You’ll thank me for it.