Holidays often bring joy, cheer, and a much-needed break from the rigors of the boardroom. But amidst the festive spirit, there's a potent opportunity that executives often miss – harnessing the power of self-awareness. Scientifically backed by neuroscience, self-awareness proves to be a game-changing skill for successful leadership.
The Power of Self-Awareness: A Neuroscientific Perspective
Self-awareness isn't a feel-good concept tossed around in self-help books. It's a cognitive ability rooted in our brains' biology. The prefrontal cortex, often called the 'CEO of the brain', is responsible for this introspective consciousness. Recent studies in neuroscience demonstrate that increased activity in the prefrontal cortex directly correlates with enhanced self-awareness.
Research has also shown that self-aware executives lead more efficiently, solve problems more creatively, and foster a healthier workplace culture. By understanding themselves better, they can understand others better, making them more compassionate and effective leaders.
Navigating the Tinsel: The Self-Awareness Challenge During the Holidays
Holidays can be a tumultuous time, with emotions running high and personal and professional obligations converging. It's a time when our cognitive and emotional self-awareness can be both most challenged and most beneficial. The break from everyday work patterns also presents an opportunity for deep introspection, providing the quiet needed to examine one's strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and emotions.
Self-Awareness Exercises for the Executive
1. Daily Reflection: Take 10-15 minutes each day during the holiday period to reflect on your emotions, actions, motivations, and their outcomes. Neuroscience suggests that practicing this regularly can help strengthen the neural pathways associated with self-awareness.
2. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices such as mindfulness and meditation have been found to increase the grey matter density in the prefrontal cortex, enhancing self-awareness. There are plenty of guided meditation resources available, making it a viable practice even after the holidays.
3. Journaling: Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can provide a clearer understanding of your internal state. Neurologically, this can help in improving memory, emotional release, and promoting metacognitive thinking, a crucial aspect of self-awareness.
4. Feedback Solicitation: Reach out to trusted people and ask for feedback. This can give you an external perspective on your actions and behaviors, helping you become more aware of your impact on others.
5. Self-Questioning: Regularly ask yourself questions like, "What am I feeling?", "Why am I reacting this way?", or "What motivates me?" These questions stimulate introspective thinking and can reveal unconscious patterns or biases.
The Ripple Effect of Self-Aware Leadership
By cultivating self-awareness, you don't just contribute to your own personal development, but also to your organization's success. A self-aware leader fosters open communication, encourages feedback, and adapts to the needs of their team, all of which lead to higher employee satisfaction, motivation, and productivity.
Here are two examples of how self-awareness can change the way you lead:
Emotional Regulation - As a leader, your response to a crisis can set the tone for your entire organization. Being aware of your emotional state helps you regulate your reactions. Instead of responding with panic or anger, self-awareness allows you to remain composed, deliberate, and solution-oriented, thus promoting a more stable and positive work environment.
Improved Decision Making - Every executive knows the pressure of making high-stakes decisions. Self-awareness can illuminate the unconscious biases that may affect your decision-making processes. By recognizing these biases, you can make more rational and objective choices that align with your organization's best interests.
Sparkling Up the months ahead With Self-Awareness
Consider making self-awareness a key part of your resolutions. By understanding and acknowledging your emotions, behaviors, motivations, and impact on others, you'll enter the coming months with a stronger sense of self and a deeper capacity for effective leadership.
Lean into the neuroscientific findings and exercises shared here and allow this holiday time to be a springboard for a more self-aware, and consequently, more successful months ahead.
After all, in the words of the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, "To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom." In the context of modern leadership, to know thyself is indeed the beginning of effective, impactful leadership.
Self-Awareness: Your Hidden Holiday Gift
While the holidays provide a much-needed respite, they can also serve as a catalyst for self-awareness and personal growth. Embrace this time as an opportunity to understand yourself better and, by extension, lead more effectively. Unwrap the gift of self-awareness this holiday time, and take a powerful step towards more mindful leadership.
In her book From Suffering to Surfing, How successful leaders make the leap, Brighter Leaders’ CEO, Lizzie Claesson, provides a DIY reflection program for managers and employees that wish to develop their personal leadership. In very short sections, this handbook is loaded with easy-to-do practical exercises that don't take much time but have a big impact. Look inside the book!