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Awareness is the ability to perceive and become conscious of one’s inner world while still taking notice of external surroundings. Leaders who learn to pay attention, observe others, and understand their strengths and weaknesses can influence how they respond to others--and how others respond to them. Neuroscience has shown that awareness emerges when information travels between several different brain areas.1
Non-verbal communication makes up a large portion of our conversations, but many leaders do not have the skills to use this information to identify objections or issues of a client or employee. So much nuance is missed, at work and at home, when people don’t recognise what people are attempting to say (verbally or not).
The neural basis of awareness has been the target of neuroscience for years. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists hope to map the neural network that helps us form who we truly are.
A recent article highlighted how researchers sought to determine what parts of the brain are active during self-awareness compared to unaware self-processing. The authors reported neural responses during self-aware processing in the prefrontal cortex, medial temporal cortices and the retrosplenial cortex. These results suggest that the neural components of consciousness are not limited to the frontal lobes of the brain.2
It’s difficult for some people to figure out who they are and how they come across to others. Self-awareness is an incredibly important skill for leaders in the Imagination Age. The demands of leadership in today’s working environment can lead to increased job stress, which impacts mental and physical health.
What I’m very concerned about is how do we bolster our self-awareness as humans, as biological organisms?
Acknowledging a lack of awareness is one way to improve leadership skills. Only around 10% of people show a high-level of self-awareness, and in some cases, the higher a person is in an organisation, the lower their self-awareness. It’s almost as if there is an inverse relationship between self-awareness and power.3
When leaders reach the executive level, it’s easy to lose touch with reality and surround yourself with “yes” people who tend to agree with you. There are so many expectations that leaders may not pay attention as closely because of the demands from clients, board members, and colleagues.
It’s no wonder that awareness levels drop when you consider the constant distractions most people face. While technology connects us, it also distracts us and can keep our minds from fully engaging in whatever task is at hand. To stay effective in the ever-changing world economy, leaders should heighten awareness to maximise personal effectiveness and their ability to lead and persuade others.
When an individual is more self-aware, he or she can become part of a self-aware team. According to Dr. Tasha Eurich, self-aware teams should constantly be assessing and then addressing issues. Each person must determine what impact they are having on the team’s performance and if progress is being made to team objectives & goals. Self-aware teams will be more innovative, more efficient, and more rewarding to members. Just as most people are not self-aware, neither are most teams.4
You can learn to pay attention to what is going on around you. As we increase our understanding of the intricate neural networks that control awareness, we learn more about how to support optimal brain health and incorporate this knowledge as leaders.
1. Damiano S, Cubeiro JC, de Haas T. Leadership is Upside Down: The i4 Neuroleader Revolution. About my Brain Institute. 2014.
2. Tacikowski P, Berger CC, Ehrsson HH. Dissociating the Neural Basis of Conceptual Self-Awareness from Perceptual Awareness and Unaware Self-Processing. Cerebral Cortex. 2017;7(1): 3768-3781. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhx004
3 .Carmichael SG. Interview with Tasha Eurich. Harvard Business Review. 2018. Available at: https://hbr.org/ideacast/2018/06/how-to-become-more-self-aware.html
4. Eurich T. Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think. Crown Publishing Group. 2017.
Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute
Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.
Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.
Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership
In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.
Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.
Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.