What is Conscious Leadership?

Before we can dive in to all the aspects and benefits of conscious leadership, and being a conscious leader, we need to discuss what is meant by the term “conscious leadership.” First we need to look at the definitions of both words. Let’s start with the word “Consciousness.”

The Consciousness of Conscious Leadership

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consciousness as follows:

– The quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself; the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact

The state of being characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, and thought

The totality of conscious states of an individual

The normal state of conscious life <regained consciousness>

The upper level of mental life of which the person is aware as contrasted with unconscious processes.

A few other perspectives say that consciousness is:

The having of perceptions, thoughts and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means… Nothing worth reading has been written about it. – The International Dictionary of Psychology

– Futurist Peter Russell who speaks and writes about the “primacy of consciousness” puts it this way: “The biggest hurdle to defining consciousness is the word itself. A noun is inappropriate. Consciousness does not exist as a ‘thing’. It is not a ‘thing’ to be known, but knowing itself.”

The four basic state of consciousness are: sleep; unconscious (non-conscious activities such as heartrate, breathing, blinking, and information that is hidden and only evident in our behaviors); preconscious (information that can be recalled such as memories); conscious (selective, intentional attention to information, things, and processes).

My understanding of consciousness that I will use in these blogs, is it is that which allows me to be aware, attentive and self-aware of my internal thoughts and emotional states, awake and aware of others and what’s going on around me. Often we can understand something when compared with what it’s not, so being unconscious to me means all those thoughts, feelings and actions that automatically occur in and around us without us manifesting those intentionally from our aware conscious state. Awake, intentionally attentive, being awake and alive to the moment in front of me, is my working definition of consciousness, of being conscious.

It is wise for each of us to consciously discern the internal states of consciousness within, and to reflect on how one is aware, how one taps into such awareness, and when one is acting out in ways that are not generated from intentional conscious awareness. What is your response to this word “consciousness?”

The Leadership of Conscious Leadership

“Leadership” is the other word to look at and gain a deeper understanding. I have always liked Peter Drucker’s definition of leadership, which is “The leader is someone who has followers.” Warren Bennis says “Leadership is about transforming vision into reality.” John Maxwell comments that “Leadership is all about influence.” Many have written on this topic, and I invite you to define what leadership really means to you. My synthesized understanding of leadership is the capacity and act of inspiring, influencing, empowering, and supporting others to voluntarily follow one’s vision for action and accomplish things together.

Leadership is not related to title, position, role, or personality and being an owner, manager, boss, or elected official doesn’t mean you are a leader. Our world is full of people who think they are in a leadership role, but only those who people motivate others to follow willingly and effectively can be called leaders. Being a true leader rises above the typical ways those in positions of power and authority act. Leadership is beyond the autocrats, the bureaucrats, the over-achievers, the narcissists. Leaders tap into people in ways the other styles cannot, and create collaborative, innovative and caring environments.

So, as we bring the two words Conscious Leadership together, we can focus in on an understanding that the conscious leader is one who brings a higher level of awareness into their own self and the world around them. They have a deeper connection into their own internal states which allows them to see what’s really going on within and outside themselves in a given moment. They are tapped in to their human side, and have a high level of appreciation, compassion and empathy for others. They have been able to mature, grow in their own self-awareness and are also able to see where they have their own blind-spots and areas needing development and improvement. Self-awareness allows them to connect with others in healthy ways that generate safety and trust, and they tap into other people in ways that bring out more from them, willingly. Conscious leaders have more courage to do what they feel is right in ways that are open and transparent to others, allowing others to choose to follow them or not. Conscious leaders show up more authentic and create environments where others are invited to do the same.

Conscious leaders are not perfect, yet they look for the best in people and situations.

Reflect on people you have experienced in your lifetime and see which of those were true leaders you wanted to follow, who you felt recognized and appreciated you, who you learned things from, and those who made you better. Don’t look at what they did, what their characteristics were, look at how they made you feel and act. Conscious leaders are those men and women who seem to truly lift us up, challenge us to do better and help us accomplish our tasks. Who in your life would you define as being compassionate, being real, being courageous, being authentic? Who would you characterize being more of a helper, a servant to you and others? Those would be your models of people who naturally expressed their own version of conscious leadership.

My hope is that we can help support the significant increase in conscious leadership in all aspects of life on this planet. It all starts within each one of us, being able to expand and deepen our own awareness. And as we do, and show up that way in our places of work, we will be a part of healthy, positive transformation. Share with me your thoughts and let’s learn and grow together!


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