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Metacognition is an important leadership skill. While word ‘metacognition’ may send you back in time to your school days, it is immensely important to practice it. I highly recommend it to all leaders in moderate doses.

In our daily lives, we rarely pay attention to our thought process and challenge our current beliefs. Meanwhile, our thought process defines us and our success. Wouldn’t it be great to understand your thought patterns and be in control of your thought process (Metacognition)? Especially in stressful situations, when even the best of us can find ourselves worrying, ruminating, fixating attention on perceived problems.

But how useful is this sub-conscious response to the situation? Will your presentation really be that much better if you worry about it? And how to stop worrying?

Will your presentation really be that much better if you worry about it? And how to stop worrying?


Despite its overly complicated sounding name, metacognition is one of basic elements of emotional intelligence. Essentially, metacognition means being aware of what you are thinking about and choosing effective strategies. “Metacognitive knowledge” refers to the beliefs and theories that people have about their own thinking.

For example, this knowledge consists of the beliefs that are held about particular types of thoughts as well as beliefs about the efficiency of one’s memory or powers of concentration. An individual may believe that some thoughts are harmful. A religious person may believe that experiencing certain thoughts is sinful and will lead to punishment.

These are examples of metacognitive beliefs about the importance of thoughts. Holding such beliefs has implications for how a person responds to his or her thoughts and how he or she orchestrates his or her thinking.
Metacognition is both a process and a skill. As a skill, metacognition is about self-awareness and strategic management of self. As a process, metacognition involves conscious, self-directed investigation of one’s mental process.

The process of Metacognition can help us develop new ways of controlling our attention, new ways of relating to negative thoughts and beliefs.

Helping executives develop metacognitive strategies is one of the most efficient and effective ways to help leaders make additional progress.

Metacognition for executives

A key factor in effective leadership is a high degree of metacognition, or awareness of the processes of one’s own thinking, and the factors and conditions that influence that thinking. This understanding of cognitive filters is critical in rapidly internalising, effectively achieving and utilising situation awareness.

Helping executives develop metacognitive strategies is one of the most efficient and effective ways to help leaders make additional progress. So, how exactly can one develop it?

Examples of metacognitive questions

“If I worry about the meeting/report /presentation, I will be prepared.”
Is it possible to be prepared without worrying?
Is it possible to worry about everything that could happen?
Does worry give a balanced view of the future or a biased one?

“I must remember everything and then I’ll know if I’m to blame.”
Is it possible to remember everything?
How will knowing if you’re to blame help you feel better and move on?
Can you move on without blaming yourself?

“If I analyze why I feel this way I’ll find answers.”
How long have you been doing this?
How much longer will it take?
What if the answer is stopping your analysis?
What if there is no answer other than changing the way you think?

“I must control my thoughts.”
How do you know which ones to control?
Is it possible to control all of your thoughts?
Could controlling your thoughts stop you from finding out the truth about them?

I am not good enough for this role
“What is the point in evaluating your worth?”

Metacognition mode

From Theory and Nature of Metacognitive Therapy: We do not normally see our thoughts or beliefs as inner events: we fuse them with reality. It’s as if we see through them at the outside world and ourselves and yet they act as the filter colouring our model of everything. We fail to see our thoughts as inner representations or constructions independent of the actual self or world. This usual type of experiencing is called the object mode, in which thoughts or beliefs are not distinguished from direct experiences of the self or the world. We normally experience an undifferentiated consciousness, making no distinction between inner and outer events and thoughts and perceptions.

The object mode can be contrasted with the metacognitive mode of experiencing, in which thoughts can be consciously observed as separate events from the self and the world. These events are simply some form of representation that has a varying degree of accuracy. In this mode, the individual’s relationship to thoughts is one of standing back and observing them as part of a greater multifaceted landscape of conscious experience

As mentioned before, metacognition is a skill and a process and it takes practice to be able to ‘elevate’ yourself to the metacognition mode. The good news is the more you practice the better you will get.

Learn more:
https://www.guilford.com/excerpts/wells.pdf Theory and Nature of Metacognitive Therapy