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Conscious Leadership And The Overview Effect: How To Build Internal And External Self-Awareness

Fact: the best leaders are the ones who are self-aware. 

However, a lot of people overestimate their capacity to assess their own selves. In this study, only 10 to 15% of the people surveyed consider themselves as self-aware. But when it comes to consciousness of self leadership, this is a very important trait to possess. There is a natural tendency for most leaders to become increasingly less self-aware the higher they ascend in the leadership scale.

What is Consciousness of Self Leadership?

The consciousness of self leadership refers to a leader’s ability to have a sound understanding of who they are and the world they live in (as well as the people in their surroundings). This type of ability allows them to understand their strengths and weaknesses. It also affects their ability to lead an organization since they can manage their emotions better and they can give attention to the ones they lead.

All of these qualities are essential in being able to lead with more success. Most importantly, it is crucial to self-leadership. Dr. Tasha Eurich, who is an organizational psychologist and executive coach, believes that when a leader sees themselves clearly, they develop more confidence and creativity in their ability to lead. In turn, this allows them to make better decisions and to forge meaningful relationships with the people around them. 

There are also some people who are in the middle ground – they are neither too self-aware nor too unaware. If you belong in this group, don’t feel discouraged. There are some steps that can be taken in order to develop self-awareness and become a more conscious leader. Acknowledging what is lacking is the first step towards becoming more effective in your leadership style.

Internal vs External Self-Awareness

When it comes to self awareness as a leader, there are two types that you need to develop and master: internal and external. These two broad categories of awareness in self leadership define how a leader sees the environment they operate in, their passion, aspirations, and values. It is also what impacts their behavior, thoughts, and feelings. Consequently, their actions, thoughts, and feelings create an impact on those around them.

External self-awareness is more common; so let’s start with that. It is how others view you in terms of your values, aspirations, and your reactions to what goes on around you. Leaders that are aware of how they are perceived by others are more effective at leadership because they have empathy towards others and take the perspective of other people into account when making decisions that impact their subordinates and the organization they lead. Leaders who are self-aware externally also have a better relationship with their employees and make the latter feel more satisfied and fulfilled. In general, externally aware leaders are more effective.

Internal self-awareness, on the other hand, is how you assess your own values, thoughts, and emotions. As the name implies, it happens internally. If you are internally self-aware, you become more conscious of your thought process and why you make certain decisions (such as what motivates you to act that way or respond to a given situation). 

Why Does Consciousness of Self Leadership Matter?

Understanding the difference between internal and external self-awareness is the first step towards achieving the right consciousness of self leadership. To be specific, there should be a balance of the two. When these two exist, you are able to reflect on your leadership style and decision-making in a way that would benefit yourself and those that you lead.

In fact, experts believe that the consciousness of self leadership is the foundation with which future leaders can develop emotional intelligence. 

So, how do you achieve this? And how do you practice consciousness in your leadership style?

First, you need to put yourself under a microscope. It’s one of the biggest challenges that a leader faces – being open to criticism and acknowledging that there are some areas of their leadership and personality that require improvement. 

Do this on everything you do and say. And then, have an inner self-talk so you can assess if you made the right decisions and if you have the correct motivations behind those decisions. It is natural for humans to be shrewd observers of human behavior; however, this typically happens regarding other people and not within one’s self. It is time to change that and channel your natural tendency to observe towards your inner self. At the same time, you need to also be aware of your outer landscape and how that impacts your decision and makes others feel.

Conscious leadership also matters because it is borne out of the realization that as a human, we develop habitual patterns. These habitual patterns impact our thoughts and actions. When we make decisions, the habitual patterns cause us to react in an almost automatic setting – we do not tend to evaluate our actions and decisions, it just happens.

Thought leaders and experts suggest changing this approach to leadership. Consciousness is a matter of being fully aware and being present. It involves an understanding of what’s going on within our internal processes and also managing external events. When these two factors are present, we are able to lead with grace and compassion. 

An internal and external self-awareness as a leader requires you to become aware of your decision-making system. It requires you to marry your experiences of the world and the ability to filter external situations in order to come up with a decision that will benefit not just you, but also everyone around you. Humans have been hard-wired to make decisions for their own survival. Therefore, it will take a lot of time, effort, and practice to be able to disrupt this habitual pattern and acknowledge that conscious leadership is much deeper than that. 

Developing a conscious leadership style requires being aware of one’s self, as well as how you think and view the world. It requires being mindful of your own experiences and your default pattern of response. This new style of leadership is becoming the new industry standard because it is more inclusive and empathic.


Internal self-awareness is an understanding of one’s own values, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors. External self-awareness is the ability to perceive how others perceive us and understanding the impact of our actions on others.

Building external self-awareness involves seeking feedback from others, actively listening to different perspectives, engaging in open and honest conversations, practicing empathy, and being open to constructive criticism.

Building internal self-awareness involves self-reflection, introspection, journaling, mindfulness practices, seeking clarity on personal values and beliefs, identifying patterns in thoughts and behaviors, and being open to self-exploration and personal growth.

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