“Leadership is not about being the best. Leadership is about making everyone else better.”
Today’s’ information overload makes many of us experience overwhelm and our indulgence in limitless activities, day-to-day busyness makes us lose connection with ourselves and to that of what really matters. The heavy stream of never ending information related to work, changes and events happening around the world not only diminish our sense of well-being but focusing on matters that are not in our control can make us fall into reaction trap, reacting to interpretations, people, opinions, assumptions, fears and expectations.
Then one also experiences the pressure of keeping up with other areas of life like health, career, social issues and daily work challenges. Such constant activity and stimulus often activates more of our unconscious part of the brain where we identify ourselves with more of doing-ness than being. In a world that is so complex and ever changing, moving from overwhelm to well-being is often difficult, especially if you are in leadership or management position. Whether you are aware of it or not, always driven by compulsion to achieve, compete or to catchup limits one’s capabilities to lead and manage no matter how competent and skilful they may be.
Being externally oriented, one fails to connect with themselves and others meaningfully. Today’s complex and connected work environments and organisational structures thus demand leaders to take a more conscious approach towards their work, business and leadership that allows them to think and act strategically, engage creatively, focus on desired outcomes and create positive influence instead of giving into external forces of distractions.
What is conscious leadership?
Conscious leadership is the process of guiding others from a place of self-awareness and accountability and it focuses on building a culture of “we” rather than an egocentric “I” attitude. Conscious leadership is not just being mindful or adding more leadership mindset, but refers to the ability to bring one’s entire self into the leadership in any situation they are in. It is about all aspects of an inclusive “we” approach where one is more aware of their own assumptions and overwhelming world views towards becoming more self authoring. It is the ability to live and lead by choice than from one’s own habits of external conditioning. Conscious leaders are:
- Self-aware. They are less reactionary and move beyond their egos and achieve wholeness through their values and are purpose driven. They lead from a place of authenticity and have the ability to make difficult choices that others may shy away from.
- Collaborative.They are aware of differences, honour them and focus on shared values. They encourage individual strengths and combine them to propel people forward to produce better outcomes for everyone involved.
- Mindful. They are more present and aim at remaining mindful in their personal or business relationships, interactions and communications like listening and communicating as intently as possible and paying attention to their present moment.
- Accountable.They believe in delegating power, control and responsibility to others, creating opportunities. They establish partnerships across boundaries and consider multiple perspectives so they can innovate and create shared benefit.
- Committed to learn. They are committed to learning instead of being defensive, closed and being right. They treat every situation as an opportunity to learn and innovate and create win for all scenarios.
Why is it important
The main aspect of conscious leadership is to recognise whether you are above the line or below the line. The default position from which most leaders operate is from above the line where they are mostly ego-driven. When ego tries to survive by being tight, one views through victim mindset or interpret everything through ‘to me’ lens.
Whereas above the line approach helps one grow in self-awareness and they view themselves as someone who is able to impact and learn from their environment and interpret life through ‘by me’ lens. Conscious leadership helps you shift your outlook and leadership style that is based in an above the line commitment.
Leaders who are not conscious in their approach tend to dwell on their own emotions or power and tend to over-rationalise their decisions by discounting theirs and others’ emotions. Pursuing one’s s ‘whole’ as it is in conscious leadership helps you align what you say and what you do with your purpose and passion. One is more empowered to rediscover their intuition and include it in making decisions that are in alignment with their core values.
By becoming more self-aware, leaders realise their own limiting behaviours like learn how to respond to situations instead of reacting to them. This leads to transforming work cultures that are more valued, inclusive and productive. This allows teams or employees more engaging and grow in their roles resulting in creating an environment of trust, care and influence.
How to practice conscious leadership
Leadership traits are an integral part of how one is perceived as a leader and how successful one can get mostly depends on the behaviours they exhibit. To become a conscious leader, one needs to move beyond the reaction trap and make conscious choices, slow down enough to manage priorities and has to work from a state of conscious awareness to inspire others to be their best self. Here are some ways to practice conscious leadership.
Grow in self-awareness. The first primary requisite of conscious leadership is to be self-aware of your own identity and how well do you know yourself. Since your experiences, habits, abilities and feelings influence your behaviour, gaining clarity of the underlying thoughts, emotions and feelings help you identify what compels you to behave in a certain way, your strengths, weaknesses, and how effectively you can influence others. Self-awareness helps you better manage and regulate yourself in all circumstances.
Ask yourself, What are the areas I can improve myself? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What are my top priorities? What situations do I function optimally – stressful or highly predictable environment? Are my goals meaningful and fulfilling? Being aware allows you to know how your work and actions affect those around you and make necessary adjustments for tendencies that are self-defeating.
Be intentional and purpose-driven. Set meaningful goals and seek out your intentions behind everything you do or say. This empowers you to respond rather than react to what is happening and saves some of your misdirected energy, time and efforts. Being grounded in present allows you to connect and communicate your intentions in your day-to-day conversations with your friends and co-workers.
Ask yourself, What are my current intentions ? Are they aligned?What is my to-be list? Are my conversations with others meaningful and purposeful? Say only what you mean and avoid speaking negatively or taking things personally. Believe in your purpose and let go of your expectations.
Practice mindfulness. The busyness and all the pressures that accompanies being a leader limits one’s ability to stay focused. Meditating through mindful breathing helps you gain deeper awareness of your thoughts and actions. It enhances your focus to work through daily distractions and overwhelming challenges.
Reflecting on who you truly are, your priority values, beliefs and contemplating on your actions and decisions helps you figure out inconsistencies in what you say and do. While you may find feedbacks uncomfortable, being receptive of honest feedbacks and reflecting on them without being judgmental or defensive makes you more conscious in the way you lead.
Build collaborative work environments. Apart from being self-aware, being aware of others’ roles, contributions and responsibilities is equally important in being a conscious leader. Creating an environment that enables others to work to their strengths is essential to achieve common goals. Be open to new and alternate perspectives to enhance performance and expand opportunities for yourself and others. Express your true intentions, thoughts and feelings let’s them know what’s expected of them. With a clear understanding of what they are supposed to do encourages them to achieve common goals.
Ask yourself, How appreciative am I of others’ efforts and ideas? How committed or supportive do I get in helping others to reach a solution or meet a goal? How open am I to diverse opinions and perspectives? Being judgmental or putting labels limits creativity and innovation. Acknowledge others’ efforts and ideas to increase their engagement and to attain maximum performance.
Assume personal responsibility. When you believe that regardless of what you do, external forces will dictate your future, it can be quite disempowering and keeps you stuck in victimhood. On the other hand, assuming responsibility for the part you play, you get to choose how to respond to people situations, and circumstances.
Ask yourself, What decisions and choices contributed to a particular problem? How did I contribute to this problem? What changes can I initiate today to become more personally responsible? Conscious leadership is all about making a genuine effort to improve yourself by learning from your mistakes, failures and rejections and owning potential consequences of any choice you make. When you become accountable for your choices, thoughts and feelings, you create an environment of trust and collaboration.
Be honest. When you stay disconnected from your true self, you tend to carry on with social persona merely to seek acknowledgment and appreciation. Honesty and integrity is essential to develop conscious leadership and an inner sense of ‘wholeness’.We are the product of people we associate with as they influence our choices. Surround yourself and develop friendships and work relationships who are in alignment with your values.
Ask yourself, Is it true? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? To live with integrity is to align your decisions and actions with your core values and being honest with yourselves and others.
Space for self-reflection
Do you lead from doing-ness or from being-ness?
How can you shift from being closed, controlling and defending to more open, inclusive and collaborating?
How can you lead in a more conscious way from today?
How do you strengthen your inner connectedness to move from overwhelm to well-being?
How well do you know yourself -your strengths, weaknesses and flaws?
How often do you take responsibility for your choices and decisions?
What are your priority values and how intentional are you in conveying them to others?
How collaborative are you in your efforts to create more opportunities to grow and improve?
To sum up,
Being a conscious leader means adopting a set of principles to instil better collaboration and trust of one’s self and others with a focus on self-awareness and value of feedback. With conscious leadership, you can transcend the reaction trap, shift from overwhelm to well-being, begin to focus on what’s truly important and enhance ways to guide others to connect with your intentions.
Living and leading from a place of authenticity not only creates an environment of trust but also builds collaborative teams that work towards achieving common goals and shared values. Re-evaluate your approach and leverage the power of conscious leadership to reach for ways to inspire the best in people to achieve their high performance.