Leaders can pick up on things typically. One of the reasons they have been placed in leadership is because people trust their ability to see through the haze so to speak. If the room goes dark, the leader will say things like: "It's gonna be ok, just grab my arm, I think I know where the doorknob is." Leaders have an uncanny ability to see in the dark. This is why many use them as a seeing-eye dogs in times when they are blinded by either over-stimulation or under-stimulation. So they grab the leather handle wrapped around our waste and ask us to guide them through the busy or lonely streets. Leaders love being seeing-eye dogs.
But this gift is their scourge as well. It does no good to talk about leaders having an acute sense of self-awareness without talking about the thin line between that and self-consciousness. Leaders have a powerful ability to read between the lines, pick up on latent cues, and track an overarching storyline that most look right through, like an ozone layer that is essential but undetectable to the naked eye. Leaders sense things deeply and thus are deeply sensitive....more than they let on.
You can't have the gift of awareness without it creeping into all realities. You may be able to tell when a person isn't buying into a argument at the "Strat" meeting and adjust your presentation to accommodate their ambivalence, but you can also tell when a person is disappointed in you and underwhelmed with your performance. Sure, you can assess the lay of the land and make spot-on decisions in the moment to remedy a volatile situation, but you can also feel the pain that fills a coffee shop as people sip their coffee with hollow eyes and lines in their faces from a night of very little sleep.
Leaders are lifted to platforms of influence because they feel and respond to those feelings appropriately. Instead of over-reacting or under-reacting, they take all factors into consideration and act with wisdom by and large. But the toll this ability takes on the soul cannot be understated. When you have this "Spidey Sense" that leads to the "Midas Touch" of leadership, plan on having a hamburger heart on a regular basis. Ground beef.
So let's do away with this notion that a leader can have the best of both worlds. I've not met one. Every effective leader I've ever had a conversation with (off the record that is...no cameras rolling picking up their momentary highlight reels) struggles with feeling too much, carrying too much, caring too much. Yes, over time they learn dehumanizing tactics to deaden the sensitivity, but they are, by and large, chained to the ability to make tough calls in harrowing circumstances when others are dropping like flies all the while dropping like a fly into bed at night with a hamburger heart shredded by the thousands of non-verbals and verbals that gave them the ability to lead people through the confusion in the first place.
Oh, hamburger heart, how I love and hate you!