The SOS model of leadership awareness

As a coach and consultant I constanctly keep my focus on Self, Other and Situation when I’m coaching or working with an organization.
If you want to apply that yourself, you can download a written SOS exercise when you subscribe to my email list.

But, how does the SOS model apply to in depth leadership development?

Take a look on the left, where each venn diagram now has 3 extra skillsets.

In the venn diagram of the Self you can read ‘embodied awareness’, ‘leadership story’ and ‘personal power’. That means that a development of awareness of Self happens through developing and growing these 3 skillsets.
For your awareness of Other you build your skills for ‘dialogue’, ‘conflict facilitation’ and ‘deep democracy’.
For Situation you go deeper into the ‘origin story of your organization’, dynamics of ‘rank & power’ and ‘field theory’.

And it is in the intersection of these 3 areas of development that ‘Slow Leadership’ happens, allowing you to move more freely between the
3 levels of leadership.

Read more in detail below.

A leader is self aware

Embodied Awareness

So much of what we have traditionally learned about decision making focuses on how to use rational thinking. However, most of humans information processing happens through our bodies. Vital for your self awareness is your embodied experience. Knowing what happens in your body means knowing what happens with you. Knowing what happens with you when you’re in a leadership position, means knowing how you respond to the information you’re receiving in the moment. Your response informs your interventinos and your decisions. You want to develop your capacity to listen to your different ways of responding through your spontaneous thoughts, your bodily sensations, your feelings and emotions and your overall energy. This dramatically increases the credibility of your ‘gut feeling’ about a project. Learning to use embodied awareness provides you with more information than what your thinking brain can offer. Your experience in the moment enriches and deepens your ability to respond.

Personal Power

Your position as a leader gives you power and impact in your organization. Your title comes with authority. But what are your powers when we strip you of that cloak of leadership? What powers can’t we take away from you no matter how far we take your from that position you hold? We’re talking about powers you have developed through a lifetime of succes and failure, through receiving support and guidance and overcoming challenges.
How does your personal set of powers shape your leadership? What style of leading honors those powers? How can you hone in even more on these powers in a way that they can lift up other areas of your leadership where you feel disempowered?
Personal powers often emerge from a need to liberate yourself. Leading from these powers means liberating yourself in your leadership role, infusing more humanity in your interactions and modeling authenticity for your organization.

Leadership Story

Why are your a leader?
Have you ever asked yourself that simple question?
Were you chosen to be a leader or did you actively pursue leadership in your career? In any case, deepening your understanding of your journey towards leadership helps you to see your purpose, to clarify your strengths and preferred style and to surface values that are indispensable for you as a leader.
For some leaders an answer to this question might be easy, for others not. But, don’t fool yourself. Even if you have been ‘chosen to be a leader and never wanted to be in this position’, you will have a fascinating leadership story to tell.
And even if you’re quick at answering this question, I’d invite you to dig a little deeper than ‘an opportunity’ or ‘a logical step in my career’. After all, leadership doesn’t start once you are a professional. Leadership is a long, long personal journey that has started years, if not decades, before you actually got that promotion or founded that organization. Leadership is a story we carry with us our whole lives, in good ways or in bad ways.
Understanding your story can dramatically change your relationship with your own leadership and thus with the organization you lead.

A leader is a facilitator


Accessing the full power present in your organization means being able to access the power that others bring.
You want to be able to lead in the most inclusive way possible in order for you not to lose these smaller voices that might have ideas the bigger voices don’t have.
If you want to include the wisdom of your people you have to be good at dialogue. Simple, right? Sure, until deadlines, financial pressure, market fluctuations, competitors, impatience, ego or any other human distraction swings by.
Dialogue is more than listening. Dialogue requires suspending your ideas and conclusions, sitting with uncertainty until all information is heard, resonating with and relating to what has been shared and making sure you really, really understand the other.

Conflict Facilitation

Nobody likes conflict, but all of us are having it in overt or covert ways. Tensions and polarizations can disrupt the best of organizations and as a leader your task is not to avoid conflict, but to facilitate it. Conflict means difference and diversity and when facilitated that refines and strengthens your decision making and makes your organization more adaptable to change.
As a leader your awareness of conflict might at times lie in the slightest signal of human behavior from the people around you.. or from yourself. No matter how slight or how big, if you know how to facilitate conflict, you’ll be aware of pending conflicts before they tend to erupt or erode collaboration, you’ll feel confident and calm when the heat rises and you’ll know how to invite difference in a way that it can inform better decisions.

Deep Democracy

As a leader you have the power to take decisions and steer your organization into a specific direction. However, in order to get to the right direction for yourself, your people and your organization, it is vital to include all the different experiences ‘in the room’ during the decision making process. There are bigger and smaller voices, there are those who speak and those who stay silent, there are opinions, feelings, thoughts and concerns, there are different, sometimes opposing roles that manifest and there is unity. As a leader you facilitate all these voices to be heard, you facilitate the awareness in the group of all the different parts that relate to the topic at hand and as such a decision will emerge that energizes, empowers and motivates your organization as a whole.

A leader holds the bigger picture

Organizational Story

Your organization has been created with the aim of supporting a human need. It has an origin story that holds the meaning it has in the grand scheme of things, in the development of humanity. Being aware of that, living that story as a leader, feeling and embodying that story yourself is vital for your leadership in an organization. You need to regularly connect with that story, remember it, revive it, in order for you to be able to keep on inspiring and motivating your people and to stay on top of what your organization really, really needs. The origin story of your organization holds the meaning and the purpose that nurtures your everyday work for yourself and for your people. Knowing and living that story helps you thrive.

Rank & Power

Dynamics of rank and power are distributed in very divers ways across your people and organization. Being comfortable with conflict is one thing, but knowing how these larger systemic dynamics play a part in our everyday relationships for better and for worse, can help you foresee difficulties and positively influence the dynamics in your organization.
Being aware of rank and power in your organization requires a lived understanding and thoughtful anticipating of how people’s socio-economic life experiences impact their current feelings of agency and freedom, how their personal and psychological development has favored or disfavored their impact in the world and how the position they hold in the organization ties into all of this.
As a leader awareness of these systemic dynamics that we all take with us everyday supports your leadership of your team and your organization at large, because it’ll allow you to predict difficulties, to see what needs will come up and to prevent rupture or at least smoothen it. As such, it’ll make you more effective at what you do.

Field Thinking

The ‘field’ refers to the multi-layered environment you, your people and your organization are in. It refers to the different levels with which you interact and that impact you, even when you’re not always aware of them. It has a vertical aspect, from local all the way to global, but also has a horizontal aspect, across your organization or across your industry for example. Awareness of this field you’re in increases your awareness of what you can do, what you need to do and what you can expect as a leader, a team, an organization. What happens in the field always happens to some extent in your organization and knowing that impact can make your decisions more sustainable and resilient.

Want to deepen even more?

As an executive coach I have this model with me all the time while I coach.
However, since coaching is not a teaching relationship, it won’t always be clear and explicit for you how this model does it’s work. At times it might happen that I clarify a thought or a way of looking at a topic by talking about the concepts in this model, but that will be rare, since we’re focusing on the question or problem you’re bringing to coaching and our aim is to create more freedom for you in your leadership.

If after reading more in depth about the SOS model you feel you want to learn more about one of the 3 areas of focus, you might take a look at the SOS  coaching packages I offer. Each of these offer six sessions where we dive deep into the 3 skillsets of Self, Other or Situation.

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Thomas Ameel

+32 (0)486 17 24 92

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