6 examples of conscious leadership (and how to embody it)

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  • 29 Mar 2024
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There are several factors to good, inspirational leadership. Leaders must be decisive, self-aware, honest, communicative, and the list goes on. But what about developing a greater feeling of consciousness? 

Conscious leadership is an interesting (and necessary) component of any successful leader's credentials. 

In this post, I will define conscious leadership and propose concepts that can help anyone be fully present while leading.


What Is Conscious Leadership?

Nearly a decade ago, the concept of conscious leadership rose to prominence in popular thought. In 2014, the book "The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership" urged leaders to reconsider how they may lead more effectively. 

Since then, the concept has spread throughout the highest levels of company. In most circumstances, we describe conscious leadership as the simple act of being completely present and aware when leading. 

The exact definition of the word consciousness backs this up. The dictionary defines awareness as “the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact.”

While being completely aware and "in the present" may sound simple, it is actually a very intricate subject. A truly conscious leader has the ability to "read a room," instantly understand others, and make intelligent, self-sacrificing decisions—and does it consistently. 

Being a mindful leader can have numerous benefits for both teams and leaders. For example, a fully conscious leader is more self-aware. They have a greater understanding of themselves. They are more intentional and confident in their actions. 

Finally, mindful leadership enables you to become the best leader possible.


How to Be a Conscious Leader

The unanswered question is: how do you begin to integrate conscious leadership into your life? 

Here are some recommendations and examples to help you get started.


1. Strive to Be Authentic

The ability to be real serves as the foundation for conscious leadership. It is impossible to lead effectively if you are not yourself. You cannot lead effectively by pretending to be someone else. 

Of course, this does not imply that you should express every thought you have or vent raw emotions. We all need filters to protect others and ourselves. Instead, an excellent illustration of authenticity would be to speak frankly with your colleagues about a challenging circumstance. 

Let's say sales are down. Obviously, everyone is aware of this. Many people are concerned that layoffs and other cost-cutting measures would be harsh.

Nobody reacts favorably to a leader who pretends everything is well. Not addressing the issue immediately would just exacerbate the sense of fear that already exists in the workplace. 

Instead, a thoughtful leader would give safe and private channels for employees to express their concerns. If layoffs are on the horizon, a thoughtful leader will resist the desire to make false promises.


2. Consider Perspectives Other Than Your Own

Your leadership style is significantly influenced by your worldview. When you look at the world through the prism of "me," it is far more difficult to be aware of your surroundings. Instead, you should endeavor to change your perspective and see things through the lens of the communal "we." 

Being an above-the-line thinker is a good illustration of this, and it comes directly from "The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership". This is a leader who seeks to comprehend their surroundings. They tackle every situation with curiosity and ingenuity.

When your team receives bad news, "above-the-line thinking" could include remaining calm and encouraging others to contribute positive information. You do not have to fix the problem on the spot. Simply setting the tone is enough. 

Again, a conscientious leader understands that there is a significant difference between what an individual employee will say in a group setting and what they will feel empowered to share over a one-on-one cup of coffee with their manager.

Yes, gathering feedback from many sources is time-consuming. However, a fully conscious boss will see time spent with staff as an investment. It provides an opportunity to gather information, resolve employee problems, uncover previously concealed difficulties, and build the employee-supervisor connection.


3. Listen More Than You Speak

As a leader, it's also an important method to avoid the "me" mindset mentioned above. By actively listening to others, you engage your team members in a creative problem-solving process. Reflecting on what they say shows employees that you hear them as well. 

Active listening also encourages others to take the initiative. Consider a scenario in which you're attempting to resolve a technical issue. You listen to and implement a suggestion proposed by the head of your IT department. This increases their trust in your leadership while also resolving the issue more efficiently.

All too frequently, leaders unwittingly bring a "been there, done that" attitude to conversations with subordinates. Because leaders frequently know their business model from top to bottom, it is all too easy to tune people out when they start talking about something the leader believes he or she has mastered.

Next time you think you've heard it all, take a moment to think of a relevant question. For example, “When we implemented that system five years ago, I was on the team that conducted the employee training. Do you think anything has changed since then?

Questions like this show that you respect the other person's insights and are willing to accept that you may not know.


4. Don’t React, Respond

As a leader, there will be occasions when you must respond to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. However, leading from a posture of reaction undermines your potential to display conscious leadership. 

Instead, take proactive steps to manage the aspects of your environment over which you have control. A good example of this is turning off notifications, phone calls, and other distractions during a meeting. Another proactive option is to schedule responses to communications at specific periods of the day.

Urgent situations necessitate increased concentration. You can consider implementing a "no laptop, no cell phone" policy for meetings called particularly to address an urgent matter. 

If a lack of connectivity causes your team members to twitch, you may assign an assistant to monitor personal phones in case of an emergency. It is entirely up to you how you execute an expanded concentration policy; the goal is to demonstrate conscious leadership by being fully present.


5. Be Mindful

Mindfulness is another important notion that leads to conscious leadership. Leaders cannot always be thinking ten steps ahead. There are times when they must slow down and concentrate on the present. 

There are numerous ways to be aware, but one of the most effective methods is to ground yourself in the present moment through conscious breathing. Deep breathing and paying attention to each breath is an effective approach to refocus on the present moment and attend to whatever needs your attention at the time.

"In through the nose, out through the mouth." This can be an excellent starting point for slowing down your thoughts and the pace of discussion when a crisis arises. 

It may be tempting to believe that slowing down for mindful breathing is "a waste of time," but the reverse is true. Allowing yourself space to reassess and oxygenate your brain will result in you spending less time following through on poor judgments. 

Next time your mind races, consider discreetly asking yourself the three questions listed below. As foolish or apparent as they may look, forcing oneself to answer questions can provide significant insights, particularly in tough situations.


6. Practice, Practice, Practice

Finally, remember that conscious leadership requires time. If you want this powerful principle to affect your leadership style, you must commit to purposeful practice on a regular basis. 

Push through your doubts that all of "this consciousness stuff" is a waste of time or that you'd rather be doing something. Consider embracing consciousness activities as a long-term investment in your mental health and a preventative measure against burnout. 

If you're still unconvinced, make a calendar reminder to give it a try for a few weeks. 

You'll benefit. Your staff will profit. Over time, you're likely to find that your bottom line benefits as well.

When it comes to conscious leadership, you must be willing to put in the work and practice the necessary skills in order to effectively improve your leadership talents.


Final Thoughts

Conscious  is an effective technique. It makes no difference whether you're a CEO overseeing thousands of employees or a team leader managing a small group through a transitory project. Adopting the conscious leadership principles listed above will help you make more productive, deliberate, and inspired decisions every day.

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