Mastering Situational Awareness In A Leadership Role


By Saran Traore

Situational awareness has become popular and crucial in many business sectors, as professionals begin to understand and apply the concept to risk mitigation.

There are daily (and oftentimes continuous) challenges in a team matrix environment that may impact performance. New technologies in the workspace, cross departmental collaboration, and changing policies, are just a few to list. If you came across this article, it may be because you are ready and interested in a change either within you, your teams, or both.

But what exactly is situational awareness? How can you master and apply it to self and team outcomes?

After we explore this topic, you will:

  • Discover the three levels of situational awareness
  • Understand how to apply situational awareness to your daily decision-making
  • Learn how Elev8 can help to improve your leadership habit building through executive coaching

What is Situational Awareness?

Situational awareness is a term that originated within military operations. In simplest terms, situational awareness is understanding every element within a given environment and acknowledging the implications of what is taking place – past, present, and future.

There are major benefits in applying this concept to your decision making.

Situational awareness prepares you before taking action. Gathering information and visualizing the outcomes before they happen are critical to decision-making.

Within controlled environments, errors can be a learning tool. In high-stakes industries, errors can have significant impacts. Situational awareness leads to risk mitigation by lowering unintended impact and overall quality improvement.

Mastering situational awareness allows leaders to quickly identify important touchpoints, better staff and customer experiences, and mitigation of unforeseen issues.

What are the Three Levels of Situational Awareness?

There are three levels of situational awareness as identified by MR Endsley, a former Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force.


The first step of situational awareness is an individual’s perception of available information.

First, you must have access to the information, then you must be able to recognize that the information is relevant.

As leaders, all information may not be available, but a daily practice of relevant information processing is key to critical decision making and risk mitigation.


The second level of situational awareness is understanding the information given to you.

With the relevant situational information obtained, the knowledge and skillset to apply the information is important.

As a leader, keeping your skills and knowledge sharp is key to this second level for comprehension. Continuous learning will benefit you, the staff, and stakeholders in the short and long run.


The final step to achieve situational awareness is predicting, or visualizing the possible outcomes of a desired course of action.

Once the two prior levels are applied, a leader needs to make predictions and be open to altering their plans if necessary. Bottom line, a leader must be agile in this third level to achieve the best possible outcome.

Why is Situational Awareness Important Within a Leadership Role?

Leadership roles involve making high-stakes decisions in a fast-paced environment that can have major repercussions across various levels based on outcomes.

Mastering situational awareness, therefore, is essential to higher quality of performance and experience. In order to produce the best possible outcomes that meet various targets and circumstances, leaders must recognize, understand, and build capacity on all relevant levels of their environment.