“What is the essence of what you do here at Leading Edge?” This question was recently posed to us by a leading Australian professional development educational organisation.

Simultaneously and without hesitation, both my business partner, Alice, and I answered, “It’s about self-awareness and being present.”

The relationship between awareness and being present in leadership is deeply interconnected and significantly impacts a leader’s effectiveness. Here’s how these concepts relate and their effects on leadership:

1. Awareness in Leadership: Awareness in leadership refers to a leader’s conscious understanding and sensitivity to both their internal state and the external environment. This includes self-awareness, emotional intelligence, situational awareness, and the awareness of others’ needs, emotions, and perceptions. Leaders who cultivate awareness have a better grasp of their strengths and weaknesses, can empathize with their team, recognize the dynamics within their organization, and are attuned to broader market and societal trends.

2. Being Present: Being present, or mindfulness, in leadership means that a leader is fully attentive and engaged in the current moment. Rather than being distracted by past events or future anxieties, a present leader listens actively, observes deeply, and makes decisions with a clear focus. This presence allows leaders to respond rather than react, making space for thoughtful decision-making and genuine interactions with team members.

3. The Relationship: Awareness and being present are mutually reinforcing. Awareness enhances a leader’s ability to be present. By being aware of one’s thoughts, emotions, and the surrounding environment, a leader can more effectively engage in the present moment. Conversely, being present enhances awareness by allowing leaders to notice more about themselves and their environment, recognizing subtle cues and underlying issues that might otherwise be overlooked.

Here at Leading Edge, our unique approach to leadership and team development combines theory, models and tools with experiential learning alongside our herd of horses. The result is an incredible opportunity to see the theory in practice, to deepen awareness of self, others and the environment, and to witness the impact of one’s leadership style, communication and approach to others. If we are willing to take onboard their leadership lessons, horses are a leveller that no human can match.

As I always say, “Quite simply, they make the invisible, visible.”

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