Emotional Awareness

Emotional intelligence has become the buzz word and cliché of the last decade. Everyone’s talking about the importance of emotional intelligence (especially in leadership), but I rarely see people actually working on it or understanding it. At the risk of adding a whole new concept to the conversation – but why not – I suggest we instead focus on emotional awareness.

Here’s how I define emotional awareness:

A person’s ability and willingness to be aware of their emotions, the underlying sources of those emotions, the behaviors that flow from those emotions and the impact they create through those emotions (intended and unintended).

Without all of the foregoing, even someone who wants to make changes in their behaviors and impact can’t do so without the foundation of emotional awareness.

And here’s the big challenge – it’s the Pareto Principle (80 / 20 rule) – 80% of people (especially leaders) think they’re emotionally aware but only 20% are actually emotionally aware. At least to the level and degree people believe they are. That’s a monstrous and collective blind spot.

There is a solution, but many people / leaders are not willing to do what needs to be done to achieve that solution. It’s called vulnerability. Blind spots (especially regarding emotional awareness) are called that for a reason and it’s literal – you generally can’t see them or at least the degree of them. Therefore, the best and often only way to become more emotionally aware is to dive deep into your emotions and triggers (always vulnerable personal work) and invite people around your (coaches, partners, team members, etc.) to give you the feedback you need to become more emotionally aware.

Let’s be honest here – it may take a professional (coach, therapist, etc.) to help you really understand your emotions, triggers, etc. While others can give you feedback on what they see in the behaviors and some of the impact, it will likely require someone skilled in digging deep into such issues to help you dig deep enough to find the core and understand the patterns.

In any event, it requires a commitment and various acts of vulnerability if you truly want to enhance your emotional awareness and to then change your behaviors in order to shift your impacts. This is why vulnerability is one of the core elements for leadership and leadership growth. If you want to be a more purposeful and impactful leader, you have to be willing to get naked (vulnerability) in more to become more emotionally self-aware. This is not a journey for the faint at heart, but this is one of the critical journeys for anyone who wants to be an impactful and empowering leader.

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