What is conscious leadership? Let’s first look at the definition of consciousness: the quality or state of being aware, especially of something within oneself, and the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact. Simply stated: it’s about being awake and aware of your surroundings while also being aware of your own inner landscape.
Put yourself under a microscope and venture into all areas of yourself, everything you do, from the choices and decisions you make to the inner self-talk that promotes your beliefs and your perspectives on the world around you and even yourself. In my work as an executive coach, this is the heart and soul behind the tools and skills I have crafted. I am a shrewd observer of human behavior and am aware most lack a deep understanding of themselves and others. To be a conscious leader then requires a deep dive into oneself, while being aware of the outer landscape and how your behavior affects others.
Now, let’s look at the overview effect, a term and concept coined by Frank White in his book, The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution. The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness, and when this happens, it can create a powerful shift in how we think about our surroundings, our connection to life and others and, finally, how we think about Earth. Becoming conscious leaders does require a shift in awareness and our connections to ourselves and our environment. Raising your consciousness is about gaining greater self-awareness, which is challenging because we often do not want to look at some things about ourselves.
What do you think is the most challenging area in self-awareness? It is uncovering your blind spots. There is a sequence of events regarding blind spots — what I refer to as the one-two punch of blind spots. First, you are triggered, and then you react, unaware of how others are perceiving your response. Your blind spot and reaction to being triggered reside within and how your response affects others is your impact on your environment. Blind spots are also the biggest challenge because you can become triggered in many different ways.
I use this analogy with my clients: The disco ball has hundreds of tiny mirrors on it and your blind spot can become triggered from many different approaches, just like all the tiny mirrors. And like the size of those mirrors, it is hard to see it coming.
A client came to me because it was brought to his attention how, during stressful times, he becomes curt, verging on being rude to his direct reports. In our work together, he was unaware of his behavior and the impact on his team. A dangerous aspect of his trigger was he held things in rather than asserting himself in the moment. I pointed out to him that when we bottle up our emotions, eventually, we will explode and be aggressive. Instead, it’s better to assert ourselves in the moment. Learning his blind spot and being conscious of what triggered it started his journey toward conscious leadership.
Here is where self-awareness of your emotions and the feelings you are experiencing from an event become crucial. Allow yourself to feel the emotions and then ask yourself, “What can I do differently than my usual response to a trigger?” Do you become defensive? Harsh? Go silent? It doesn’t matter. Instead, step into the situation, first by reflecting on what you heard the person say. Doing this keeps you from allowing the emotional response from getting a foothold. Reflecting back also gives you time to consider how you want to respond, if at all. This step helps you manage your emotions while making you aware of the emotions of others. In this way, you are taking the first major step toward conscious leadership.
Conscious Leadership And The Overview Effect
Now, let’s combine everything we just discussed with the overview effect. Once you manage your emotions, you can take a step back and read the room. Observe body language, tone, and how people appear to be feeling. If you are in a meeting, try to determine the emotional tone of the room in general. When you do this, you are connecting on a different level and getting outside of yourself. It’s a small world in this environment and it’s all about connection. It’s not just about who you know and the role you play; it’s more about relationships. Conscious leadership is about connecting to yourself and to others and your surroundings.
Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone
The final component to conscious leadership is keeping an open and flexible mindset. A conscious leader who is open-minded invites innovation. We all prefer to stay where we are comfortable, but the more we stretch ourselves, the more aware we become — and that is the epitome of conscious leadership.
In essence, becoming more self-aware is not enough. You need inner self-awareness and external self-awareness. Both will stretch you in ways you never imagined.
Just the other day, one of my clients said, “This is dangerous territory.” Dangerous? No, necessary. Take a 30-day challenge and work on one area for increased self-awareness. Finally, open yourself up to the feedback you receive to spur you on.
This article originally appeared on Forbes and is published here with author permission.