This week, we embark on a journey looking into another element of the first “M” of the 6 M’s Framework: Managing Self Awareness & Regulating Yourself. In the world of leadership, where decisions are swift and challenges are ever-present and conflict arises, the ability to manage oneself emotionally becomes a cornerstone of effective leadership. It is a crucial skill that empowers leaders to navigate complex situations with finesse and empathy.

UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional Intelligence, as coined by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer and popularized by Daniel Goleman, comprises of four key components:
  1. Self-Awareness: Understanding one’s emotions and their impact on others.
  2. Self-Regulation: Managing and controlling one’s impulses and emotions, especially in high-pressure situations.
  3. Social Awareness: Sensing and understanding the emotions of others.
  4. Relationship Management: Using emotional information to navigate social interactions successfully.
This week, I delve into the first two components which are Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation, which I believe are the two key aspects and will then open the door for social awareness and relationship management. Both have a profound impact on your leadership journey.

SELF-AWARENESS: THE MIRROR WITHIN

Leaders who possess high self-awareness understand their Gremlins, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, assumptions, interpretations, limiting beliefs, stories and rigid rules. All of these elements influence their leadership style. By regularly reflecting on their actions, thoughts, being and emotional responses, they gain valuable insights into their behaviour and its consequences. If they understand all of that about themselves, they can then also pick up on what is going on for someone else, becoming less judgemental and more empathic. You learn to recognise the humanity in yourself and stop making yourself, and hence others wrong.
Developing self-awareness involves cultivating mindfulness, which is the ability to be present in the moment without judgment, to be present enough to listen to your own thoughts such as your limiting beliefs, assumptions, interpretations, stories, rigid rules, or to the present moment, without judging the other person.
Secondly, it is about understanding that there is a difference between your perception, which is what you believe you see, from where you sit and how you perceive the world around you and how you perceive others, versus perspective, which is how other people perceive how you sit in relationship to the world. 98% of people are trapped in their own PERCEPTION. So the 2% that live in PERSPECTIVE have a powerful self awareness, as they have both perception, aka their own world view, or a subjective view and perspective, aka the world view of others, or an objective view, available to them. The more diversity of thought you open yourself up to, the more robust the end result will be, be it a decision, a solution, or “the truth.”
Essentially, humans are like fish in water; they don’t realise they are swimming in water. We have our frame of reference but rarely see it. We think that how we perceive the world is how it operates. Perception is about us and how we interpret the world around us. But it’s limited by the 5 senses and tied to our biases, or GRAILS. Your perception is predictable to anyone who knows you well enough. It’s your default position because it doesn’t take any effort.
On the other hand, perspective gives you the ability to perceive yourself and others from the outside in, meaning you can view the world as it is not as your perception tells you it is; to think outside the box. You can train yourself to do this, or you can ask for feedback from many people around you. Getting feedback is the door, to opening yourself up to objective views from others. They will see things about you and your worldview, that you can never see about yourself. If you do this regularly enough, the learning will impact your success trajectory in your career, your business or life exponentially.

ANOTHER DOWNSIDE OF BEING STUCK IN PERCEPTION

Living in your own movie; perception, makes sense from a developmental standpoint. We had to be self-centered to make sure we survived. Our brain can still be stuck in the survival or emotional consciousness states,  so it only cares about the Self. But this way of seeing creates judgment.
When we do something ‘wrong’, we find ways to explain it. We know what our reasoning is because we have access to our thought process. But when we evaluate others’ behavior, we don’t have access to their reasoning, only the result, so we tend to be much harsher if their outcome is not what we deem correct. It’s a vicious cycle. We’re trapped in our own perception and when we see the world/others operate in a way that doesn’t match our perception, we believe it’s wrong. However, it is not wrong, it is as “right” as your world, the two can mutually coexist at the same time.
An ability to see how the world works outside of our perception and what someone else’s perception is called perspective. I’d call this adulthood and moving into the third consciousness state called the executive function consciousness state.

HOW TO UNDERSTAND SOMEONE’S FRAME OF REFERENCE

Childhood, sociocultural context, education and familial relationships are what shape our perception. By the age of 26, we’re fully set in our worldview and our ‘identity construct.’
There are 3 developmental stages where your identity and worldview get created
  1. Birth to 7 y.o. – comprised of 2 stages of cognitive development; which are the sensorimotor stage, where you learn about the environment through your senses and motor activities, moving from being reflexive to more abstract. The second stage is the pre-operational stage where we use more mental abstractions, understanding classifications, viewpoints and identity. We are like sponges in this hypnogogic stage and nothing is true or untrue so we get predisposed to believing a lot of things. For all of us, at some point, we will experience a failure in the circumstances around us; that failure might be as simple as a sibling throwing a toy at your head, or you being told no, by a parent, or it might be as traumatic as abuse, neglect or abandonment. The failure in circumstance has you feel that there is “something wrong here” and you experience yourself as “not being enough”, as a result of this, you decide to be a certain way; e.g organised, smart, analytical, strong, etc, to deal with that sort of failure in the future. This is often the moment where shame stems from. This is the first layer of your worldview and identity. This is also the source of your Gremlin, your inner critic. To summarise Layer 1 or Identity & Worldview – Something Happens – “THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG HERE” [FAILURE: IN BEING ENOUGH]
  2. Between 7-13, the next stage is the concrete operational view where we can solve problems and consider multiple outcomesavnd perspectives. Spatial and mathematical abilities improve, as do conservation abilities; where you recognise that things can be the same, even if they look different. We start to differentiate true, vs untrue but it’s affected by the unconscious beliefs we learned in the 1st stage. We also experience another failure in the circumstances around you. This time we experience “I Don’t Belong” and the failure is a “Break in Belonging.” Once again, YOU make a decision to be a certain way in life, in order to deal with that failure in the future. This adds another layer to your worldview and identity construct. To summarise Layer 2 or Identity & Worldview – Something Happens – “I DON’T BELONG” [FAILURE: BREAK IN BELONGING]
  3. Ages 13-26 – In this stage, we enter the formal operational stage where we can think about abstract thoughts that are not limited to time, space, person or situation. We can think about hypothetical situations and possibilities, we have deductive reasoning. We develop the ability to evaluate and reject certain pieces of information. We again experience another failure in the circumstances around us and this time we experience ‘I’m on my own” and the failure is that of being a burden. This creates another layer of your worldview and identity. To summarise Layer 3 or Identity & Worldview – Something Happens – “I’M ON MY OWN” [FAILURE: AS A BURDEN]
Where/how/with whom did you spend every stage of your cognitive development and what ideas has that created for you? By the time your hit 26, your worldview has been set and your identity layers created. The only way to change the worldview is if you give permission for contrary info to challenge you. Neuroplasticity is a well researched area and you can create new rewirings in the brain, but you have to do the work to identify your current state of thinking and being, in order to understand where you want to go with your new way of thinking and being.
Take time each day for self-reflection. Consider journaling your thoughts and emotions, or engaging in practices like meditation and mindfulness to enhance your self-awareness.

SELF-REGULATION: THE ART OF EMOTIONAL MASTERY

Self-regulation is the ability to manage and control one’s emotions and impulses. Leaders who excel in self-regulation remain composed under pressure, think before reacting, and maintain a calm demeanor even in challenging situations.

AMYGDALA: THE EMOTIONAL SEAT OF THE BRAIN

The amygdala, a pair of almond-shaped clusters nestled deep within the brain’s temporal lobes, serves as a critical hub for processing emotions, particularly the big 6 emotions such as fear, shame, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise. It acts as a sentinel, rapidly assessing incoming sensory information for potential threats, and triggering the body’s fight-or-flight response when danger is perceived. It wields significant influence over various aspects of cognition, behaviour, and memory consolidation, forming intricate connections with regions involved in decision-making and emotional regulation. When it is triggered, the connection to your frontal lobes, the area for logic and reasoning, is diminished, so you can’t think logically or rationally. You are emotional when it is triggered and it takes nearly 20 minutes for your brain to process and to calm down. SO, if you are about to write an email when you are angry, or say something to someone in that triggered state, learn to walk away, ask for a break, or shut your computer down and get some space to process. Then come back and reread that email and rework it. You will be surprised at what you were about to say in that emotional state. Learn to regulate your responses when you are triggered and remember, what others say to you, is often not about you, but about something from their past, that has popped up for them and they are triggered.
To enhance self-regulation, practice stress-management techniques such as tapping and deep breathing. Identify triggers that provoke emotional responses and develop strategies to navigate them effectively. This might involve deep breathing exercises, taking short breaks, or seeking support from a mentor, or coach.

BRINGING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE INTO LEADERSHIP

Now that we’ve explored the foundational elements of self-awareness and self-regulation, let’s discuss why they are indispensable for effective leadership.
  1. Decision-Making: Self-aware leaders make more informed decisions. Understanding your emotional state allows you to set aside biases and make decisions based on rationality and strategic thinking.
  2. Relationship Building: Leaders who regulate their emotions foster positive relationships. By staying composed, you create an environment where team members feel heard, valued, and understood.
  3. Adaptability: Change is constant in leadership. Self-awareness enables leaders to adapt to evolving circumstances, while self-regulation ensures that these adaptations are thoughtful and intentional.

THE CONTINUOUS JOURNEY OF GROWTH

Embracing self awareness is not a one-time task but a continuous journey of growth. Regularly assess yourself, your thinking and being and commit to ongoing development. Seek feedback from peers, mentors, and team members to gain valuable perspectives on your leadership and work style.
Remember, the journey toward mastering self is unique to each leader. Celebrate small victories, learn from setbacks, and approach the process with an open heart and mind.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As you navigate the intricate landscape of leadership, the power of elf awareness and regulation becomes a guiding force. Cultivate self awareness to understand the depths of your emotions, and harness self-regulation to lead with resilience and composure.