Consider this analogy: If you’re a fish, you likely wouldn’t notice the water you live in because water is what surrounds you. You’re used to it. In order for you to notice the water, you would probably need to be taken out of that environment to see it from the outside.
The same applies to our leadership skills. It is hard to fully comprehend the context in which we lead until we allow ourselves to step out of that environment. Failing to recognize the framework in which we operate comes with a high price tag: extinction.
In a world of rapid change, we cannot apply yesterday’s leadership practices to today’s problems. Why? Because the context of the current business environment has shifted (and is shifting) as we speak. From my perspective, with predictability gone, the future seems to look more uncertain, and the only thing we can undeniably rely on is that circumstances will be changing in ways we cannot always foresee. Therefore, I believe that staying alert, focused and self-aware are desirable qualities to pay attention to.
Ego and expertise often imply finality and suggest that there is nothing more to be explored. They propose that we don’t need anyone to tell us what to do and how to do it. A sense of power combined with stubbornness — aka our unwillingness to learn and relearn — often deludes and sidetracks us, as well as make us believe we have reached the very top.
However, to survive, future leadership calls for new skills and competencies that will enhance the likelihood of success. Leaders not only must stay on top of the current trends influencing their companies, their industry and their employees but also must prepare themselves for the future.
Based on my observations as a coach for leaders and organizations, leading effectively today means adapting by addressing aspects such as diversity, employee engagement and attracting and retaining top talent, as well as paying special attention to:
• Managing multiple generations
• Encouraging female leadership
• Emphasizing accountability
• Developing a global mindset
• Adapting to the gig economy
• Creating new business models to accommodate disruptive technologies
Addressing these current and future needs require leaders to go beyond the execution — and initiate personal evolution. Why? Because from my perspective, people don’t leave organizations; they leave other people. Business effectiveness highly depends on a nontoxic internal culture and lack of politics. You can create these positive environments through emotional competence, self-regulation and self-evaluation skills.
Leading in a way that people stop worrying and start using their time doing what they are the best at is key. I believe shifting perception from solving problems and reducing uncertainty to making progress by actively engaging with ambiguity gives birth to creativity and innovation.
In this two-part series, I will explore what I view as the seven essential skills — conscious leadership, self-awareness, self-evaluation, communication, focus, agility, and culture — leaders should aim to develop or stretch to succeed in the future.
And though there is no “all-fits-one” recipe, emerging trends ask for the ability to build meaningful, trusting and engaging relationships, as well as for leaders to embody behaviors that reflect any changes they’re asking for. This starts with heightening the level of leadership consciousness, self-awareness, and self-evaluation.
This represents the capacity to lead with clarity, passion and purpose — to be able to attend to your own needs first (i.e., physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually) and understand what drives your behaviors and actions. “Conscious leadership” embodies a shift from carrying the responsibility to the ability to respond adequately to the circumstances. I’ve observed integrity, authenticity and accountability happen to be a new measurement of truth. Where to start? Cultivate self-awareness, invite feedback, conduct mental detoxes frequently, meditate and set clear intentions for all that you do.
Seek feedback to invite learning opportunities. Replace satisfaction that comes with your success with the chance to evolve. Declutter your mind to become more decisive by addressing all “pending decisions” that contribute to mental overload and procrastination. Reflect why and how you should lead based on who you are, not the power you hold.
Self-awareness is an art of getting to know yourself as a person, beyond your strengths and weaknesses, on a much deeper level by analyzing your own thoughts, feelings and triggers. By getting quiet in our head, we have a chance to see things, people and circumstance for what they are. Listen to the silence; it has a lot to say. Don’t kill your dragons; train them and exchange stimulation for satisfaction.
By becoming aware of the roots of your behavior, you have a chance to manage them. Self-awareness is an essential prerequisite of introspection and retrospection; it’s also in high demand to execute new (and often unpredictable) business requirements. It can be cultivated through developing a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, exploring and learning, and always knowing where you stand in relation to where you are heading.
This skill provides a measurement of your effectiveness. Notwithstanding the importance of moving swiftly in the river of rapid changes, I believe succeeding in the business environment will depend more on our ability to systematically evaluate ourselves as people and leaders.
Therefore, check-in with yourself regularly, conduct 360-degree feedback reviews annually, make a habit of soliciting feedback and considering reaching out to a mentor or coach for support. As inconvenient and uncomfortable it might sound at first, the more you know about yourself, the more accurate your perception of reality will be. The more precise you get to interpret and understand what surrounds you, the bigger advantage you will have in leading winning organizations.
The second article of this series will expand on the other leadership skills: communication, focus, agility and culture, and how they are built upon conscious leadership, self-awareness and self-evaluation.
Originally published at Forbes.