What is Conscious Leadership?

Conscious leadership means leading from a higher state of awareness, allowing you to find new and effective solutions to challenges and provide the four things most demanded of a leader: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope.

Employee Engagement

Most employee surveys these days, such as the Gallup polls that produced the four factors above (trust, compassion, stability and hope), show what many managers fail to see: that what people really want from their leaders is not material or financial but personal. This presents challenges but also huge opportunities. Money is a relatively simple concept to understand and manage; people are infinitely diverse and complex. On the other hand, conscious leadership provides a way of keeping people engaged far beyond economic resources can. 

“13% of workers worldwide are engaged

63%, are not engaged

24% are actively disengaged”

The above statistics, from a 2010-12 global survey by Gallup, show the scale of the task we face as leaders. It shows that bonuses, stock options and other financial benefits do not make for a workforce which is emotionally connected to the organisation. These do, of course, play a part in motivation, but to be successful as a leader, we ourselves need to engage with our people, becoming increasingly aware - conscious - of their needs. 

For those that do make the effort to become conscious leaders, the opportunities to make a difference - in all aspects, both personal and therefore corporate - are immense. Many studies show that a more engaged workforce is a more productive and loyal workforce. According to the latest meta-analysis by Gallup, the leading public opinion poll organisation, the median difference between the top and bottom engagement quartiles amounts to 22% profitability and 21% in productivity (up from 16% and 18% respectively in the previous 2008-10 survey).

I personally don’t need statistics to tell me that if I genuinely care and look after my people, they will look after my business or foundation. But equally, part of the process of listening allows all important measurement to take place so you can monitor progress towards your engagement goals.

My own in-depth experience in market research taught me the value of - indeed the need for - independent surveys to find out how people are feeling and measure your impact in an anonymous and non-threatening way. Given the global movement, started in the US with Dodd-Frank, rewarding external whistleblowing, it is clearly in organisation’s best interests to put in place a mechanism for internal reporting and communication. 

You can learn more about independent market research and its benefits, especially in the context of good corporate governance, and the importance of corporate communication in other areas of this website. 

If you live by the sword you will die by the sword:
material benefits vs human fulfilment

As the old saying goes, if you live by the sword you die by the sword. Similarly, if you live and lead with money as the driving force, you may become materially successful but you also become a slave to money, which has been the downfall of many a leader. If you try to motivate your people by financial means alone, when they see or receive a better offer they will leave you.

In any case, during tough economic times, as many economies have been facing in recent years, employers have to look beyond financial motivation to deeper engagement. And when this is achieved, commitment, productivity and innovation are multiplied, as the statistics quoted above, and many others, show, especially when better times return.

Beyond the ubiquitous, usually trite and often hollow words “people are our greatest asset”, is a universal truth. However automated and systematised organisations become, nothing would function without human intervention and all of these systems are designed to serve humans. Unless the most extreme science fiction fantasies of self-aware artificial intelligence are realised, this will always be so. 

Whatever the economic environment, then, focussing on your people and satisfying their needs is actually a much more achievable goal than fighting an endless battle for material supremacy. By embracing conscious leadership, you open the door to the sort of fierce loyalty every leader seeks.

The Hierarchy of Needs

Everyone who has studied management and psychology knows about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Yet it seems really only to be applied to consumer marketing in creating and satisfying demand for products, or even a sense of solidarity and association with good causes. 

This is perhaps indicative of the approach of many employers and their leaders and perhaps, therefore, provides an explanation for the lack of employee engagement. As a leader you need to ensure people’s basic needs are met first, then continue to support their progression up the ladder of personal growth and fulfilment of higher needs.

Conscious leadership means being at least one or two rungs further up on the ladder, continually growing and increasing your own awareness, especially awareness of where your team is on the ladder, so you can ensure you are working to fulfil the right needs. 

At its simplest, this is about using your senses well. As we explain on our page on leadership and learning, we were given two eyes, two ears and one mouth - let’s use them in that proportion! Awareness of our physical environment and the mood and concerns of people in it is a relatively simple yet extremely effective first step in building that trust. Following up with action is clearly necessary to maintain that process, as is monitoring the effectiveness of those actions.

Becoming a conscious leader

In his powerful book The Soul of Leadership, Deepak Chopra gives a neat process for developing conscious leadership, using the convenient acronym L-E-A-D-E-R-S (see right)

When I read the book, I had already begun developing my own version, which I explain in my Conscious Leadership training programme, launching soon, but Deepak’s was certainly influential in clarifying my thoughts and I am considering making the book obligatory reading in all our leadership courses! 

L = Look and Listen

E = Emotional Bonding

A = Awareness

D = Doing

E = Empowerment

R = Responsibility

S = Synchronicity

A relatively slim volume is packed with inspiration on how to become one of a new breed of leader. One who leads by serving and thereby inspires their followers to do the same. One who empowers them to make decisions and take controlled risks with the responsibility and awareness for the consequences for all. The Soul of Leadership summarises for me what it is to be a conscious leader - someone who recognises how we are all connected and therefore every action we take has a consequence beyond ourselves.

This is what is truly meant by conscious leadership and it offers a more powerful and sustainable approach to all areas of life, whether you are in business, the public sector, a community organisation or even your own family. Being aware and responsible for our own actions - and responses to the actions of others - is having the power to change the future and make a difference in our organisation and the wider world. The major implication of this is that leadership is not restricted to a few but that everyone has the ability - and indeed the responsibility - to lead.

I have only scratched the surface here but I hope it begins to paint a picture of the possibilities and that you will embrace conscious leadership in your journey of personal growth and development.

To find out more about my Conscious Leadership programme and to arrange a session for your organisation, please contact us.


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