Foundation For First Principles Based Leadership


Share on LinkedIn


One of the foundations for First Principles Based Leadership is for leaders to be aware. Leaders need to work on their awareness on five different levels.

1. Self Awareness:

First and foremost is for us, as leaders, we need to work on improving our self awareness.

When I talk about self awareness, I am referring to knowing what we want to achieve and why we want to achieve it. Is it for our own sake (ego driven) or is it for the sake of the team that we are leading (service driven).

When I talk about self awareness, I am also referring to knowing what our strengths and weaknesses are. We need to continuously work with our teams to identify where our blindspots are.

We do this so that we can either learn and bridge the gaps or bring in people who compliment our strength and compensate for our weaknesses or bring perspectives which bring our blindspots into focus.

2. Social Awareness:

When I talk about social awareness, I am referring to the ability and the emotional maturity to look at interactions with the people on our team and know what is going on with them.

It is the ability to know what are the challenges that the team faces on a day-to-day basis, which hinders them from bringing their best for the team and when known remove them.

It is the ability to know what are the strengths, weaknesses and blindspots of each member on our team. It is knowing what are the aspirations of everyone on the team, what motivates them, what they are good at but don’t want to continue to do.

It is the ability to know what is the meaning of what is being said in the conversations within the team or understand what is being left unsaid. It is to be aware of the contributions of the different members of the team and invite contribution from people who haven’t yet contributed. It is the ability to find out why they have not contributed yet and address it.

3. Cultural Awareness:

Culture in an organisation is like the operating system of a computer or a phone. It defines the limits within which everything else needs to function.

So, When I talk about cultural awareness, I am referring to the ability to quickly gauge and understand the cultural nuances (organisational, social, political or economic) that we need to be sensitive to.

This is also the ability to understand the cultural dynamics both within our team and the larger organisation – knowing how work gets done, who is really in-charge and what drives our key stakeholders and how to collaborate with them effectively.

These cultural nuances could be about the culture of the organisation that we are a part of. This is also the ability to create a micro-culture within a larger cultural environment, if needed.

4. Contextual Awareness:

When I talk about contextual awareness, I am referring to the ability to be present in the moment and be able to sense a change in energy or dynamics in real time.

I am also referring to the ability to be flexible and agile enough to be able to change tact as and when needed.

5. Systemic awareness:

When I talk about systemic awareness, I am referring to the ability to identify the systems in play and the interactions between them.

It is the ability to identify the points of leverage within a system which provide the opportunity to introduce change into the system.

And then staying vigilant enough to look for and identify the unintended consequences of the change introduced.


In conclusion, we earn the right to lead a team when we improve our awareness across all these five domains.

The higher our awareness, the higher the position we are qualified to occupy in an organisational hierarchy.

In my opinion, this is the necessary part of the “necessary but not sufficient” equation to qualify anyone as a leader.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mukesh Gupta
I currently work for SAP as Customer advocate. In this capacity, I am responsible to ensure that the voice of the customer is being heard and play the bridge between customers and SAP. Prior to joining SAP, I have worked with different organizations serving in different functions like customer service, logistics, production planning & sales, marketing and business development functions. I was also the founder-CEO of a start-up called "Innovative Enterprises". The venture was in the retail & distribution business. I blog at


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here