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A is For Awareness – A Key Element of Leadership

A is For Awareness – A Key Element of Leadership

Awareness is a kind of knowledge, of knowing. One dictionary defines “awareness” as “being awake,” “of having full consciousness of.” Awareness is a skill that can be developed, and it can be applied to different arenas — there is awareness of yourself, of others, of environments and situations. Being aware of something creates a meaning, or a sense of an understanding about something, that can lead to action. For example, if I am aware of a car weaving on the road, I might attach the “meaning” or inference that the driver is drunk.

A good leader is able to see things that others may not be aware of, and can attach useful meaning to that information. For example someone else might have noticed the same driver was weaving, and in addition noticed that the car had bad tires. Based on the meaning attached to the awareness and observation of a car weaving, the actions taken surrounding the situation might be different. If it was a drunk driver, I might have called 911. If it was a car with something physically wrong, I would have tried to signal the driver to make them aware of the problem.

As a leader, being aware of the values, beliefs, culture, skills, strengths, weaknesses and history of your group is critical for being able to take action that get results. A powerful yet simple example is the word “yes”. If you are aware of other factors, you may see that there can be different meanings applied to the word. Saying the word “yes” and shaking your head “no,” may mean someone isn’t quite sure. In some cultures “yes” means, “I hear you,” not “I agree with you” and, a step further, also not, “I will do it. ” That kind of subtle distinction in meaning can and has caused serious miscommunications and disappointing results for people, projects, and plans on all seven continents!

Awareness Shortcomings

Too much, too little or not enough of a good things can be a problem. Here is how awareness can cause some leaders to not advance in their skills:

1. I am so Aware – Being stuck in the love of awareness. Sometimes there is a need to summarize or draw a conclusion from one’s awareness/perceptions, determine appropriate action, and move on.

2. Move on from Awareness – Ok, so you know! Reliving, revising, replaying, adding more details to support what you already see doesn’t help. Time to move on, and at this point there are only three choices for an inner/outer deliberate shift in the situation: Ignore it, Take action, or Accept it as it is

3. Nothing’s new – Time to refresh, sharpen, or change your awareness as a leader. Change the questions you are asking yourself or others, try a new focus of awareness, or get feedback from someone or someplace new.

To increase Awareness:

1. Improve your Listening Skills. Do you listen for facts and emotions, to summarize or to marshal your own facts arguments and have your voice heard?

2. Know how to give and receive useful feedback. Useful feedback is specific, descriptive, measurable and timely.

3. Be curious. Ask open ended questions, ask for clarity, ask for history, ask questions to help you understand “why.”

4. Know how and when to step back and reflect on yourself and the situation

Awareness is one of the first steps in acknowledging a change is required. Leadership requires awareness. Awareness is a kind of knowledge and knowing. It is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with with practice.