DS Leadership Life Blog: Self-Awareness

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Are you leading Above or Below The Line?

The frequency lines

As we go through life in our various leadership roles, it pays to be aware of ourselves…at least all of the time. I consider self-awareness and mindfulness to be the most crucial aspect surrounding leadership success and healthy organizations. Oh, don’t let me mislead you. You can have zero self-awareness, live in stress most of the time, be monetarily successful and still be a jerk.

However, if you would like to lead differently and measure the success of your life by more than how well you did surviving the day, please keep reading.

I offer a model here that I have used for several years to support myself and to the health of organizations. Please do not let the simplicity of this model dismiss the efficacy. I first learned this model from Drs. Gay and Katie Hendricks from the Hendricks Institute.

The model is a line. (I warned you about the simplicity). Above the line I am open, curious and receptive. Below the line I am closed, defensive and more interested in being right. I have found it to be one of the most simple and powerful means of knowing where I am acting and speaking from in every moment.

You may be thinking, “what’s so wrong with being right”? Inherently nothing. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy having the right answer from time to time. This is normal and at one point in time, critical for our survival. A long, long time ago in a galaxy not too far away, when we were right about the tiger in the bushes, we were able to live another day. In our modern world, being right continues to be so valued that we win awards for it and are patted on the back every step of the way. It only takes being mocked once for having the wrong answer or laughed at for asking a question in class to keep us from acting like we don’t have the right answer ever again. We can see why we stay on this quest of wanting to be right, of making our case, and proving our point. I am going to make the quantum leap now and point to the obvious, yet mortifying reality; we equate being wrong with death. Not our physical death per se but the death of our image that we are desperately trying to maintain. It is as crazy as it sounds and yet, notice any place in your life where you are committed to being right and then consider giving up your position. Now it just got real, didn’t it?

Once we commit to being right, we automatically go below The Line.

An important point here is that when we go below The Line, we are entering the stress response. When we attempt to function from chronic defensiveness and stress, a physiological pattern emerges. Shallow breathing ensues with the associated physiological effects of increased cortisol, adrenaline, and an elevated heart rate. This is a less than ideal state to be in when interacting with one another and being faced with daily decision making, unless of course you are interacting with wild hungry tigers all day. Oh, and if we aren’t stressed out most of the time then it stands to reason that we could possibly be happier too.

You may have already decided that being above The Line is better than being below it. I mean, who wants to admit that they are defensive and more committed to being right than to learning? The point though is first being able to locate your consciousness in any moment and to be honest about it. It is this lack of self-awareness that derails our teams and us in the first place. If you are willing to locate yourself and admit it, you have a very real chance of being successful, without the jerk part attached to it.

For a free copy of the Above or Below The Line document, click here! http://daphne-scott.com/resources/

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