If you are in any kind of leadership position, whether as an executive, a project manager or entrepreneur, you are faced with challenges, pressures and demands that no human being can carry alone. And yet you may feel you are very alone.
Conscious leadership recognizes this humanity, seeks to get to the root of it, and make us better human beings who operate not just from our intellect, but from a broader spectrum that includes our instincts and heart-centeredness.
Here are 5 steps to become a more conscious leader:
Tom Eddington, author of The Quick Start Guide to Conscious Leadership,
The first step toward conscious leadership is to take inward explorative journey to discover what is happening inside of you.
“One of the greatest challenges leaders have is having open, honest conversations with their team. If the corporate culture does not encourage honesty, it lacks the necessary sense of trust and safety critical for growth and the encouragement of new ideas. Honesty does not undermine authority as many leaders fear; on the contrary, it opens up channels of communication in which trust can thrive,” said Eddington.
This level of openness is only possible if the leader is willing to be vulnerable. It starts with providing a safe space in which subordinates can provide honest communication. Active listening without judgment or an impulse to overlay an agenda is a critical piece for effective communication
If what we do everyday brings us joy, we will be more engaged, active and satisfied. Time seems to fly, not creep by when we are focused on what we love to do.
Research shows that money is not the highest driver of engagement in the workplace. In fact, in their book The Progress Principle, authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer write that workers’ sense of progress toward something bigger than themselves was what motivated them the most. They felt their contributions were meaningful, effectual and indispensible to their team’s overall success.
After identifying what is important to employees, a conscious leader knows how to harness that energy toward the organization’s objectives. Displaying behaviors of gratitude, appreciation and interest can motivate employees further. When defining the organization’s mission, a conscious leader weaves together an organizational culture that contributes greatly to his or her mission’s
In order to show up fully, conscious leaders need to identify the three kinds of intelligence every human being has: intuition (BQ) or gut feeling; the brain as a servant of protection and risk assessment (IQ); and the heart (EQ) as the intersection between the gut and the brain. Our bodies are marvelous instruments that can detect truth from falsehood. When we tune into our bodies, we can sense whether something feels right or not.
Our reptilian brain, which is located in the amygdala, serves as protector in case of imminent danger. Although it developed over the millennia to shield us from predatory animals, we no longer live in a time in which we need to fear lurking saber tooth tigers. It is the reactive part of the brain that directs our fight-flightor-freeze behavior. When we lead from this space, we create a fear-based culture in which safety and trust have no place.
Conscious leaders activate their “human brain” or pre-frontal cortex from which we can form thoughtful responses based on love and compassion. It is the warehouse of high-level consciousness that we can access even in the face of great challenges.
Accountability, the cousin of responsibility, is a key element in conscious leadership. When you hold yourself accountable as a person and as a leader, you pave the way for trust and safety throughout your entire organization. It signals to your team that you are willing to take a hit when the going gets tough. Simultaneously, such behavior serves as a role model for others to behave in a similar manner.
Holding ourselves accountable is much more productive than running a fear-based operation long-term. When we embrace our surroundings in a conscious way by treating ourselves and others as human beings, we make the world a better place. It is not only good for us; it is good for business too.
Nature is the most creative role model the world has to offer. With an organized ecosystem based on an intricate web of checks and balances, we can draw from Nature’s lessons in the way we lead our own lives.
Taking walks through the woods, for instance, provides us with the necessary space to actually think. Any creative leader will tell you that thinking is a big part of the process.
“As I lace up my hiking boots, I consider time spent with trees and other plant life to be research into an art of living and leading that is not only recreational, but regenerative too. In my experience, Nature is the playground of self-discovery.”
When we do, we become creative leaders who can pave the way for ourselves and our organizations in order to live out the mission we have so carefully crafted.
Human beings are social animals. We prosper through togetherness and a sense of community. Yet, in my years as a strategic advisor, I have worked with countless leaders who have shared the same experience: They feel lonely. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are higher risk factors in mortality than even obesity. In order to lead consciously, we need to gather our tribes to thrive.
Conscious leaders understand the complexity of amassing success. Their skill relies on effectively building a community of team players who work not only toward their individual, but also their collective goals.
7. Taking Radical Responsibility
We are responsible for everything and everyone in our world. Your entire world is your creation.
Your true change starts when you take responsibility for your entire life and not just aspects of it. When you focus on your part in creating your life experiences, you move from blaming others and complaining to personal action. You’re not a victim but a creator. From this perspective comes the true power of transforming the world—your world.
If you practice the skills learned here, conscious leadership and the habits that support it will become second nature. Build a group of like-minded people to shed the loneliness such leadership roles can bring.
When you open your heart to the vast power contained within, you will become a true force in this world. This path will lead you to the understanding that you are not alone.