A simple fact to keep in mind is that when we are busy thinking or not paying attention to the present moment, our subconscious takes over. It is an amazing functionality of our brain to ensure that when we can’t pay attention to what happens, autopilot takes over to accomplish the task. This process is everything but creative. It is the automatic programs that start in a millisecond to do what it’s supposed to do.

“Numerous cognitive neuroscientists have conducted studies that have revealed that only 5% of our cognitive activities (decisions, emotions, actions, behaviour) is conscious whereas the remaining 95% is generated in a non-conscious manner” (Marc Van Rymenant – Chief Visionary Officer – Netway Sa – Luxemburg – Europe)

Do you realise what it means? You are on the back seat of a car, having a driver for 95% of the time. You perhaps think that it’s pretty nice to be at the back of a nice car, having a driver. The problem is: who’s living your life if you are not consciously aware of your decisions, emotions and actions 95% of the time?

When you’re supposed to be a leader in your organisation and you are not really present, all your default programs are in charge in the driver’s seat. It means that you react to stimulus that trigger automatic programs as a response to the situation.

We came to the world with a sort of “empty hard drive” and our job until age 6 or 7 is to absorb reactions and behaviours from people around us to make it programs to know how to react in various situations. We learn and download from our parents and all people around us until we were able to function as an autonomous being. That’s why the brain waves are very slow when we are very young to allow recording.

Following the same principle, under hypnosis, for example, you are at least on Alpha waves to be receptive to suggestions. During this time period, you record everything and download it as programs to be able to react. Many of those programs are still operating today, when you’re not paying attention. Science suggests that most of those programs are disempowering, self-sabotaging and limiting. It is an important fact to be aware of and it can explain that we sometimes generate reactions from people we don’t understand. Awareness is the starting point of any change.

Bruce Lipton speaks about “the honeymoon effect”. He says that during this unique period in life, we spend most of our time in the present moment, paying attention to most moments, because we’re in love. Couples really discover each other when the unconscious takes back over, some time after the honeymoon period. It is a surprise for most people to discover their spouse in a very different light, when default programs are operating most of the time, back in the driver’s seat. In other words, you’re back to your unconscious self.

Back to your leadership. Taking into account the above, it is critical for people to develop an ability to be present and aware in the moment. If not, you are displaying behavioural programs that have been recorded early on in your life and who don’t even belong to you. You are playing recordings of your dad, your mum, or whoever was around you at that time of your life.

Taking time out, allowing space in your day to reflect, to pause, is essential. Space is key to feel available to what happens in the moment, without being distracted by your next appointment, your next meeting or your to-do list…

Getting back in the driver’s seat means spending as much time as possible aware in the moment. Your level of leadership is closely connected to this reality. Stress and distractions are the best enemies of leadership.

Giving your full attention to the person in front of you is the greatest thing you can do to increase your impact and make the person feel valued and respected. When you behave from this perspective, everything changes. You realise that you can listen, learn and interact positively.

How can you improve your presence? The first step is to become aware that you’re spending lots of time in the back seat. As long as you don’t realise it, you keep repeating the same patterns and behaviours. It’s about repeating consciously some desired behaviours that will become new programs even when you’re not aware that you’re in the back seat. There’s no quick fix but it is a fascinating process of awakening to the potential beyond your limiting programs. Mindful leadership is a way forward to make changes that change everything.

Denis Gorce-Bourge is an Executive Coach, Facilitator and Senior Consultant with 15 years’ experience, from on-to-one coaching to large scale programmes on Leadership and Management.