Beyond Self Awareness: Leadership’s Next Frontier

Guest post from Glain

This year, I
published my first book. When I was trying to think of a book title, I reached
out to our community of ambitious leaders for advice.

As I polled them with
ideas (100 Ways to Bullet Proof Your Career, The No Bullshit Guide to
Getting Ahead
, Leadership Truths from the Trenches), the one that
become the hands down winner was the one that I threw out as a joke: Did I
REALLY Sign Up for This?!

Maybe I shouldn’t
have been all that surprised. We are, after all, in a work world where we’re
pulling terms from the US military to describe the levels of disruption we’re
all feeling. VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) has gone

Many of us feel like
we’re going into battle each day. As leaders, we’re often simply trying to
survive and make it to the next round of the fight.

No wonder we lose
sight of our ‘why’. Work is exhausting. We’ve sped up technology and innovation
but remain trapped in models, processes and working norms that were built in
the early twentieth century. We are in the Age of Collaboration and yet bound
by the Age of Industrialization.

We focus on the
acquisition of knowledge and yet ignore how to increase our mind’s capacity to
handle all this bombardment of data.

Where we used to
think of self-insight and self-awareness as the ‘holy grail’ in leadership
development, it is time to move beyond simply ‘knowing’ who we are as leaders
to ‘reshaping’ who we are as leaders.

Here are three ways
we can expand our individual and collective capacity in order to engage fully
in this accelerated world of work.

1. Get Present

There’s a reason why
mindfulness has gone mainstream. In a 24/7 world, our brains need some forced
downtime. I tell my clients to grab an app (I recommend Headspace), join a
program, download a podcast or simply start taking one purposeful breath before
entering any room.

Seriously. Breathing
alone will be a game changer. Check-in: where’s your breath right now as you
read this? Is it shallow and at the top of your chest? Or nice and deep in your

Take a breath. A
nice, deep belly breath. Ah…

2. Manage Your Energy

For the past twenty
years, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about working to strengths but not
enough time thinking about how we manage energy. Given that a strength is the
intersection between our capability and our passion, our attention goes easily
to cultivating capability but we assume that passion won’t falter.

To manage in a
complex, challenging workplace, we need to pay attention to how we keep the
energy that fuels our passion buoyant. By taking control of your calendar and
putting your ‘big energy boosts’ in first, you increase your odds of
maintaining your motivation for the tasks that drain you.

Managing energy is
one of the keys to building resilience.

3. Be Intentional

With so much
disruption around us, it’s easy to get lost in the minutia of our day-to-day
leadership. We lose track of our higher purpose (our ‘why’ as Simon Sinek would
say) and forget about the impact we can make on those around us. Maya Angelou
famously said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will
forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

How easy it is for
our strengths to become overused in times of pressure. How quickly we can
unintentionally succumb to behaviours that negatively impact those around us.

Leading with
intention means stating your intention before the chips are down and the stress
levels are high.

I am kind. I am
patient. I am generous.

What are your
intention statements? Read and repeat them every day, multiple times a day.
Watch how your inner dialog changes as this mantra of intention takes hold.

Self-insight for
leaders is great. Being self-absorbed with all this self-awareness is not. The
future will belong to those leaders with the ability to expand their repertoire
and adapt their approach to meet a world that’s accelerating at a pace never
seen before.

This is the age of
the mind and it’s time we start thinking about how we’re cultivating it.

Glain Roberts-McCabe is Founder of the Roundtable, a place
where leaders cultivate their leadership, together through group and team
coaching. She is the author of Did I REALLY Sign Up for This?! #leadership
truths on how to drive, survive and thrive. The Roundtable was named the top
External HR Advisory/Consultancy of the Year in 2016 by the Canadian HR Awards.
Visit their website at