In 1968, Apollo 8 circled the moon, just a year before Apollo 11 landed the first man on the moon.
On the way back to Earth, Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell turned the camera around, and shared his perspective on Planet Earth.
The impact on the TV audience back home was profound. A sense of awe is palpable in the faces of the watchers at NASA. More than 50 years later, the planet’s beauty evokes love, gratitude, and a sense of deep belonging in me as I am watching the footage on my laptop. You might wonder:
What’s that got to do with leadership?
Like the astronauts, we mostly pay attention to the world around us. We focus on the situations that, or the people who trigger positive or negative responses in us. We tend to blame circumstances or others for what seems to go wrong in our life.
At the same time, a growing number of leaders dare to turn the camera around onto themselves: They observe their mental models, beliefs, and behavioural patterns. Thus, they are increasing their self-awareness as well as their awareness of the systems in which they operate. They tune into their values, into what deeply matters to them, and into the legacy they want to leave behind: to their families, organisations, and communities. They become increasingly aware of what holds them back from being creative or in productive relationships. What does it take to get there?
Becoming a self-aware leader requires pause.
Pause for observing our inner landscape enables a shift from our default “what’s in it for me” perspective of seeing how the world impacts us. Pause creates space for developing an eco-system awareness of how everyone is impacted by our own and our collective’s actions.
Pause allows clarity to emerge.
Clarity about the system we are co-creating.
Clarity which enables us to take responsibility for our experience.
Owning our part catapults us out of blaming or shaming others, and ourselves. It means fully seeing, and indeed, accepting ourselves with our strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, shadow and light.
And by accepting ourselves fully, we become able to accept others the way they are.
Connecting to their own humanity enables leaders to connect to others.
And the ability to create connection before direction is an ability which no leader can do without.