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Situational Awareness for Effective Leadership

The enterprise environment is an ever-shifting and sophisticated space. While technical proficiency is important when someone first starts at a business, as time passes, softer, emotional intelligence-based skills become more closely tied with mid- and senior-level job success.

Leaders fail to meet the high relationship requirements needed to communicate effectively with peers and identify and develop future leadership without proper emotional intelligence. Organizations that can’t connect with their teams and guide their development struggle to grow and adapt to the demands of their industries.

There are many aspects to emotional intelligence and many factors that contribute to effective leadership. We can’t cover them all at once, but we can describe one essential behavior: situational awareness. Keep reading to learn why situational awareness is crucial to understanding how people feel and how using the skill can help you connect with your team.

What is situational awareness

Situational awareness is a key component in sensing and understanding what people are feeling. Leaders who can read their coworkers and align with their perspectives can build a rapport with many people. As the workplace becomes more functionally diverse, leaders need to be able to identify complicated social situations and comprehend their team members’ thoughts and emotions.

Situational awareness and self-awareness go hand in hand. Understanding both your and other people’s behaviors leads to a balanced exchange. Leaders who know their emotional states may find it easier to step into other peoples’ shoes. To be successful in a senior-level role, you need to create a rapport in workgroups and other parts of the organization.

The Major Situational Awareness Traits

Social awareness has three primary traits. Each trait is interdependent and works in combination with one another. To master awareness, you need to strike a balance between all three.


Empathy is accurately sensing the state of others through nonverbal signals. You are receptive to their experiences and can connect with their exhibited behaviors. To understand a situation’s thread, you listen carefully to team members and consult with others to confirm your thoughts. While some people are empathetic by nature, others have to put in a conscious effort to develop the skill within a wider focus of emotional intelligence.

Organization awareness

Organization awareness is understanding how patterns and interactions occur throughout the business. Those with proper organization awareness read situations correctly, view events from many perspectives, and notice interpersonal dynamics within workgroups.

Service Orientation

People with a service-oriented approach enter conversations with an attitude of “being of service” rather than “being served.” You’re there for the person you’re meeting with, not the other way around. You can match your service with the person’s needs and respond appropriately to relationship dynamics. Before taking action, you always test your assumptions with other people.

What Does Effective Situational Awareness Look Like?

To be aware, you need to find the right balance. If you’re imbalanced across the three major traits, you could end up providing the wrong sort of help to your team members. For example, a leader with a service orientation but too little empathy could be seen as selfish. They meet with people to pursue their agenda, not listen to their teammates’ experiences and understand their perspectives.

Similarly, an empathetic leader with no service orientation can derail their leadership. They listen to their team, but never take action when there’s an issue. The leader knows something is wrong, but they appear not to care because they don’t do anything about it. To be a positive influence, you need to be mindful in your approach and be willing to change what isn’t working.

Do you need help identifying and developing effective leadership behaviors? Envision Global Leadership’s ALII-Map Enterprise assessment is a research-based, statistically valid instrument focused on influence behaviors, including emotional intelligence.

Our program provides mid- to senior-level workers with insight into the strength of their influence and helps organizations develop future leadership. Reach out today to learn more about our assessment and how you can invest in your organization’s future.

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