The term conscious leadership first came to the fore with the publication of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp back in 2015, but has arguably had a resurgence in popularity since COVID-19 turned the world upside down. The pandemic forced leaders and organisations to reassess their approach to leadership and team building and now we’re seeing more interest than ever in the conscious leadership approach.

It’s a way of thinking that I promote in our leadership mentoring programme as I know from personal experience how transformative it is. But what exactly is conscious leadership and how does it benefit individuals and organisations?

A calm confidence

The first characteristic of a conscious leader is the ability to step outside their own orbit and see themselves and those around them with a new, more objective understanding. Rather than being caught up in their own emotions, they are calm and confident.

My mentees describe the shift they’ve made to conscious leadership as giving them “a deep peace of mind” and “a calm confidence, even in turbulent times.” Importantly, they also report that they have “more fun being me at work”.

In The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership this attitudinal shift is described as moving from living ‘below the line’ to ‘above the line’. When someone is ‘below the line’ they view life through the lens of a victim, they operate from a place of fear. They are focused on themselves and how the world affects them, rather than having an outward, ‘above the line’ viewpoint, where it’s about what impact they can have on the world. I consider this to be leading from a place of love.

Going against instinct

However, it’s important to recognise that our natural human instinct – particularly when we are under pressure – is not to be ‘above the line’. When we’re stressed or under attack, we feel the urge to hunker down, to be defensive, to retreat back into ourselves and hide ‘below the line’.

This is why it’s called conscious leadership: because we have to make a conscious decision to lead from ‘above the line’, to lean in to problems, to be honest, to be open to learning. When we can step back from a challenging situation or difficult interaction, and seek to understand the other person’s point of view, we can reflect and respond appropriately, rather than reacting in the heat of the moment.

Setting aside the ego

As we discussed in a previous blog, to get the most from being mentored a leader must be able to set their ego aside and examine themselves with brutal honesty. Self-awareness, and being prepared to look in the mirror when things go wrong, is another important step towards conscious leadership.

When we can do this, and be open to change, we can start to alter our behaviour and our thinking and be more conscious in everything we do. We cannot control our feelings, but we can control how we react to them.

Ripples of change

Aside from the sense of personal fulfilment and inner calm which comes from conscious leadership, the really wonderful thing about it is the ripples of change which we see radiating out from the individual, through entire teams and organisations.

Teams who experience conscious leadership have more autonomy, feel greater motivation, and achieve even greater results. They thrive in the atmosphere of trust and increased appreciation. Consequently, the bottom line inevitably benefits, and the financial rewards ripple through the organisation too. It’s no surprise to me that my mentees report receiving their largest ever pay rises and bonuses once they’ve mastered conscious leadership, and they get great promotions too.

In our business we call this ‘Profit and Smiles’, a virtuous circle of engagement and personal fulfilment which leads to ever greater performance and rewards. If you’d like to find out more about becoming a conscious leader through our mentoring programmes, and growing Profit and Smiles in your organisation, please get in touch.

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