One weekend in and the journey towards self-awareness begins

By Natalie Cope, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program and BOSS Emerging Leaders MBA Scholarship Recipient 

NatalieCope2-(2)You know those moments when you realise you’ve been walking around in a cloud of blissful ignorance? Suddenly, the cloud breaks, and you find yourself on the ground, clear of reality in all its visceral detail? Well my friends that was me at the end of the first weekend of Leadership Practice and Development, and the first full weekend of my MBA. And just what was the detail that came into full view I hear you ask? Well, it was simply me, myself and I.

Had you asked me before the event how I expected to feel at the back end of my first weekend, I’d have probably quite glibly and confidently stated I expected the outcome to be, “oh inspiring and challenging but ultimately rewarding”. The truth though, is that I could never have anticipated the emotions I encountered and the realisations that came to the forefront.

I often talk about wanting a challenge and being outside my comfort zone. The first weekend took me to that place, and beyond. As you would to strengthen a muscle, we were repeatedly required to do reps; to perform exercises that forced us to see ourselves, and to do so from every vantage. If you are truly open to this experience it is both uncomfortable and confronting. Learning about you is hard. Harder still is truly appreciating the impact that you and your behaviour have on those around you.

Prior to the weekend, I spoke about wanting to develop greater self-awareness, while quietly believing I already had a good understanding of self, or at least a conceptual understanding of self-awareness. However, I was wrong. I had not previously appreciated nor properly understood the extent to which the manifestation of ‘self’, whether through your strengths or areas for development, can and do affect those around you. An ability to influence when optimized truly can mobilise the best efforts, excellence and energies from others. Not employed with caution, an ability to influence will overwhelm and exclude many.

Transition this to a real life organisational context, and you begin to appreciate just how critical a genuine understanding of self, and your impact on others really is to effective leadership. While challenging, this was an incredible and immensely valuable transition for me to make. To move from conceptual understanding to genuine appreciation has now armed me with a revised perspective and with it the ability to change. This I hope inches me a little closer to becoming the best possible me, so that I can bring out the best in others.

The first weekend was a powerful and awakening experience, the insights and learning of which I am still grappling. But the best thing about being brought back to ground zero is that the only way is up. This really is the beginning of a journey, one I am glad to be on, and the road ahead appears a lot more appealing when you know that you are joined by a likeminded cohort who are equally committed to this experience and determined to grow.

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