Practicing Conscious Leadership

Conscious leaders are in it for the long haul. Their vision, strategies and actions are aligned with timeless principles. Their vision is wide, deep and long and all of their decisions consider the needs of all stakeholders. This allows their organizations to sustain their performance over time. Unfortunately, the last few years have brought to light many instances of leaders lacking the consciousness necessary to endure. Too much emphasis on short-term results and in some cases greed have been the demise of many leaders and organizations.

From the fatal culture at Enron that worshipped talent, forcing its employees to look and act extraordinarily talented, even when they weren’t, to the big ego of Lee Iacocca and the transition or trend of CEOs moving from caretakers of company culture to larger-than-life superheroes, many leaders lost their way.

Great leaders, conscious leaders, are fully aware and connected to do what they love, pursuing a noble sense of purpose with tremendous enthusiasm. They are less concerned with status and ego. They don’t think they are smarter than anyone else; in fact, conscious leaders do not suffer from “CEO disease“ (lack of feedback) and are constantly looking for ways to improve. They would never see or refer to themselves as the smartest people in the room.

Conscious leaders possess a growth or mastery mindset that is focused on learning and development over time. They not only accept feedback, they actively seek it out from many different sources on how they can improve. They are fully awake and mindful, they see reality clearly, and they recognize the consequences – both short- and long-term – of their actions.

Additionally, conscious leaders are very resilient. They have the capacity to prepare for, recover from, and adapt to stress, challenge or adversity. They have developed the ability, through constant practice, to bounce back quickly from any setbacks.  They see themselves both as human beings and human doings, with perhaps more emphasis on the being.

They also are compassionate in their thinking and actions, meaning they have an understanding of how someone or some group feels and also take an active interest in helping them work through or overcome their challenges. This isn’t about holding someone’s hand and consoling him – although that is a thoughtful response; practicing compassion is an effective way of removing barriers to employee engagement and performance.

Leaders demonstrate their commitment to being compassionate by constantly evaluating and reevaluating the systems and processes that enable employees to engage, contribute, collaborate and perform.

What are some possible differences between how conscious and unconscious leaders refer to organizational challenges?

Unconscious compassionless leaders complain about their people in some of the following ways:

  • “They have a poor work ethic” vs. “I need to learn what motivates them.”
  • “They lack accountability” vs. “We have not found a way to gain their commitment.”
  • “They feel entitled” vs. “They want to be recognized for their contribution.”
  • “There is a shortage of good people” vs. “We need to discover how to attract talent.”

So as you consider leadership from a paradigm of more being and less doing, from a larger and longer perspective, notice if most if not all of your actions are conscious in nature and provide the context and the culture for all stakeholders to thrive. If they do, you are a conscious leader.

Originally appeared in Central New York Business Journal June 19th 2017