The ARLF leadership blog

Awareness is the key to conscious changes in behaviour

1 June 2021

At the ARLF we continually review, challenge and modify our leadership development approach. This ensures we remain contemporary in a world where the context is continually shifting. That said, some key pillars and themes remain constant over time. As part of our most recent review, we expanded the ARLF pillars of leadership practice (known as the 6 A’s) from AWARENESS, ACTION, AUTHENTICITY to include ADAPTATION, AFFILIATION AND ADVOCACY.

Developing Awareness centres around gaining a deeper understanding of self – the values, behaviours, motivations and emotional triggers – and that of others around us. I reflect on my first few days on the ARLP back in 2000 and on how well I thought I knew myself going into the program, but by day four realised I was quite off the mark.

ARLF leadership thinking advocates that to grow and mature as a leader, one must first gain a deeper appreciation of self. This includes how to recognise certain behaviours and choose to modify them as the context shifts. Recognising cognitive* and other bias is a key step on this path.

The ARLF experiential learning model is the key differentiator between ARLF and other leadership programs. This model allows participants to gain greater Awareness and understanding of themselves by exposing them to physical, mental and emotional challenges. It is our belief that leadership development is underpinned by behavioural and social intelligence not by competencies and certification.

Practising Awareness also delivers a deeper appreciation of others; their values, biases and behaviours. This growth is vital as it expands the capacity of leaders to work effectively with those who may have differing perspectives to their own.

This self-growth has been significant in my own leadership development since ARLP. My previous approach was to develop relationships to produce an outcome. Although well intentioned, this wasn’t always effective as I wasn’t understanding their key motivators and wasn’t investing in them for the sake of building the relationship – only to get an outcome. Having a deeper Awareness led to conscious changes in my behaviour, deeper listening to understand and a focus on helping people get to where they wanted to be. The results have been stark.

Developing Awareness beyond individuals to groups of people can further expand this impact. Many times I have been involved in conversations with groups of people all focused on getting to an outcome. The focus is often on the ‘product’ – the issue, challenge or policy. Frustration sets in because no one can agree on what the product is or what to do about it. Instead the focus should be on the people or the process – asking questions like what are people’s fears, expectations and needs?

Applying the practice of leadership awareness is effective in these circumstances.

In July, the 28th cohort of the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) will undertake Session 1: Discovery and Awareness in the Kimberley, WA. Participants will discover, amongst other things, that Awareness is key to understanding self and others, and that this leadership practice is instrumental to their ongoing leadership development.

Finally but importantly, we encourage reflection and participation in the many activities happening around the country to mark National Reconciliation Week 2021.

Regards, Matt

*A cognitive bias is an error in cognition that arises in a person’s line of reasoning when making a decision is flawed because of their personal beliefs.