Leadership Demands Multidimensional Awareness

Your awareness shapes how you lead.

It is through soulful awareness that leadership transcends to become inclusive.


Most leadership education today focuses on what to do and how to do it. In recent years, we have begun focusing on the level of awareness or consciousness that each leader is capable of holding. Essentially, this is a shift from doing to being. Every person has the potential to lead with multidimensional levels of awareness.

I’ve had an ongoing meditation practice for 50 years, which has shaped my approach to leading. My awareness stems from ongoing practice and direct research with other business leaders who are similarly focused

To be conscious is to be aware. You might ask, “Aware of what?” As leaders there is much to be aware of:

• Is our strategic plan going to lead the company to success?

• Is my administrative assistant just having a bad day or is he in a full meltdown?

These and a thousand other questions are pondered moment-to-moment on a daily basis. Through all this, our awareness moves from the physical to the emotional to the mental and to the subconscious and unconscious. As leaders, we need multi-dimensional awareness.

Awareness shapes how you lead. The greater your level of awareness about yourself and others, the greater your leadership capability. Our human experience includes multiple levels of awareness.

Physical Awareness

Having awareness of your physical presence allows you to shape how you are perceived as a leader.

We each have a physical body. You may have mastered the mechanics of walking, talking, smelling, seeing and listening, while some may be missing one or more of these physical senses. Successful leaders are actively involved in the organization.Paying attention to what is going on around you is only the first step. Awareness of what isn’t going on is equally important. Physical awareness only represents about 10% of all of your potential awareness.

Imaginative Awareness

We have imagination, from which we dream about what we can accomplish as a leader. Dreaming of different things takes imagination. Some leaders have imagined entirely different futures for their company. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is a good example of this. I’ve found that some leaders have difficulty imagining what to have for lunch.

Envisioning your organization as the best place to work, with an engaged and productive workforce, produces tangible bottom line results.

Emotional Awareness

We all have emotions, and the continuing study of emotional intelligence provides leaders with tools to value and use their emotions successfully. While many equate emotions with feelings, emotion is really a contraction for energy in motion. When we become aware of our emotions, we are actually aware of the energy moving through us, like flowing water in a waterfall. The energy from flowing water can be directed for positive outcomes, like generating electricity.

Learning how to direct our emotions allows us to influence, inspire, and help people achieve their dreams and goals.

Mental Awareness

The study of neuroscience and mindfulness has added significant value to our leadership capabilities. However, thinking is not a natural process. It requires development and experience. Most people don’t think, they react to situations and circumstances and hope that you’ll believe they have thought things out. Most of our leadership actions are a reaction to others' reaction.

Energy follows thought. Using our mind to harness and direct emotions within the organization is a critical leadership skill. This one skill is often the difference between a successful leader and one who has great thoughts but no way to help move these thoughts into reality.

Subconscious And Unconscious Awareness

Our subconscious and unconscious act as a warehouse to collect items that we have created, promoted or allowed but never completed. Consider that the subconscious is like the hall closet in a home. We put things in there and are aware we can easily access them when we need it, for example, a raincoat. The unconscious, on the other hand, is like the basement or attic in a home. Things are put in there and are usually forgotten.

This level of awareness requires observation and discernment. What may have been written as a goal in last year’s strategic plan (but was never implemented) may or may not be important today. Each person on the leadership team may have a different perception about the goal based on how their mind and emotions have shaped their perceptions. Observing these different perceptions and discerning if this prior goal is still relevant to the success of the organization is a key leadership skill.

Developing awareness of these levels allows you to clean out the old that may be weighing down your organization's success.

Soulful Awareness

Finally, we have one more level of awareness, which is the soul. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit Priest in the first half of the 1900s, is credited with saying, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Many different spiritual teachers through the millennia have expressed similar words. Suspend disbelief for a moment and consider how you might lead others if you believed this was true for you and true for everyone else. Would your leadership be different? How so?

While intellect is of the mind and requires ongoing study, intelligence is of the soul. We move into and out of soul awareness on a daily basis, but most people are not capable of holding that awareness for extended periods of time. Those flashes of brilliance, joy, connectedness and unconditional loving that we experience are all reflections of the essence we all are.

It is through soulful awareness that leadership transcends to become inclusive and approaches life from the perspective described by Aristotle – for the highest good.

"Every skill and every inquiry, and similarly, every action and choice of action, is thought to have some good as its object. This is why the good has rightly been defined as the object of all endeavor." (Nicomachean Ethics 1.1)

Leading from the highest good transforms your focus on what to do and how to do it, allowing you to produce results that benefit yourself and others.

Originally published at www.forbes.com

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