The GROW model allows you to be aware of your goals, but there is another type of awareness that is critical in leadership: Self- awareness. Self-awareness also means developing the ability to know oneself as a leader. Learning to spot what is going on inside us when we are stressed and under pressure, when we are on the autopilot or when our mental chatter takes up all the space and cuts us off from the direct experience of the present moment and the possibilities of being proactive.
We now know very well how harmful chronic stress is to both physical and psychological health. It might not be well known, but the stress we carry overwhelms those around us. In the workplace, this information is of prime importance because it has a direct effect on the quality of leadership.
Our brain is designed for survival, and it continually scans our environment for potential threats. Thus, any perceived threat (real or relative stress) then triggers the secretion of stress hormones. The body and mind are then in a state of alert. What happens
when a leader is stressed by too much pressure? The brain of people around the leader instinctively perceives it as a threat, and the leader then becomes a potential danger. Concretely, their ability to think, make good decisions, and be creative will be reduced to its simplest expression, or worse, may become inaccessible.
Mindfulness, therefore, teaches leaders to be proactive, to recognize the signs of stress as soon as they appear so that they can respond appropriately to keep them healthy and maintain team cohesion through mobilizing leadership. Self-awareness allows the leader to become aware of automatisms. The automatic pilot is the mental program that opens the door to behaviors that are deeply rooted over time, such as habits, prejudices, narrow perceptions, or ruminations.
These automatisms, which keep us within the framework of what we know and which we unconsciously reproduce despite ourselves, limit innovation, lead to the repetition of negative experiences and block the ability to change. Learning how to recognize them and how to flush them out is of primary importance for the leader.
Self-awareness allows us to recognize the mental chatter that leads us through a maze of thoughts and opinions rather than keeping in touch with direct experience. We mistakenly believe that what this inner discourse tells us must be accurate, but experts in neurology tell us that it is more like a brain cleanse. Moreover, it cuts the leader off from all available relevant information obtained through active listening and authentic communication with others.
Cultivating self-awareness means developing the ability to observe yourself with patience and benevolence to get to know yourself and recognize your ways of functioning as a leader to transform them. It is the fundamental foundation on which other skills and qualities can be built to ensure the well-being of yourself and those around you.
Mindfulness meditation is the training of the mind. It is the gym of the brain that invariably brings us back into the present moment away from unconscious programs to develop self-awareness.
This transformation is possible because our brain can transform and reshape itself as a result of daily training. Building on this capacity means encouraging the adoption of new leadership skills that are better adapted to the mobilization of teams and the human management of resources.