Why Conscious Leadership Matters

Our current world has undergone massive cultural and business transformations over the past centuries. As we emerged from Monarchies to Nation-states and Democracy, from craftsmanship to the Industrial and Information Ages, from Mercantilism to Capitalism and Globalism, we again seem to be approaching a new tipping point. The rate of change and increasing complexities are requiring newer forms of how we come together at work, why organizations are formed and what are their purposes going forward, and how to maximize the power of the human element beyond conventional management practices.

Whatever your opinion about business and capitalism is, the facts are that the combination of democracy and capitalism has driven the rise in the quality and standards of living for billions of people on the planet over the past 150 years. Business is the mechanism by which we humans solve problems and improve the comfort, efficiencies and pleasures we experience today. While much progress has been made, there are many unintended consequences to the modernization of our societies, and we face huge challenges moving into the future. Global events of the past few decades make it evident we are at a major crossroads. Einstein said that “we cannot resolve our problems with the same levels consciousness with which we created them.” In other words, “what got us here won’t get us where we need to go.” Yet, those in current positions of power don’t seem to comprehend what’s really going on around them, or aren’t motivated to act with greater awareness and leadership.

A Look Into Employee Engagement

One stat I have been following for years is the level of employee engagement at work. The Gallup organization has been tracking this for decades, and from their recent data we see that “Less than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. However, a majority of employees, 51%, were still “not engaged” and 17.5% were “actively disengaged.” They also show that 87% or the world-wide workforce in unengaged. So we live in more prosperity materially, yet we are finding our workplaces as less-than desired places to be. How sad it is to take these numbers in and think of the waste for so many to be happy, fulfilled and more productive at work. This is the greatest missed opportunity on the planet today in my view.

Those at the top of our organizations set the tone for the rest. If we are unengaged, under-productive, creating negative outcomes through our work, those at the top are responsible. I don’t however support placing blame, so I want to shed light on the current situation to allow our higher levels of awareness to kick in.

We have all seen the effects of various styles people in positions of power exhibit, and how people respond and perform to them. Think for a moment and see if you have experienced any of the following in your own history:

Autocratic styles are from people who see themselves as the center of everything, and have a fairly low affiliation for people in general, unless they get something from them or can control them. They rule by fear, intimidation, and the people that work for them do just enough to keep them happy and to maintain their paycheck. The level of engagement is very low.

Bureaucratic styles are from people who espouse rules, policies, and processes. These people lead by conformity, have a bit more regard for the human race than autocrats, but can lead very stifling organizations. Conformity, controls and processes are what they adhere to, and hide behind. Engagement is defined as clocking in and out right on time, doing what the boss says, avoiding conflict and not rocking the boat.

Achiever style is predominant in our American society, where the quest for ‘more’ is the underlying current. While this style can be appealing to our collective consciousness and has generated more productivity over time, it can be short-sighted in its approach to doing business and solving problems. The chasing of ‘more’ creates more stress, more competition (often between those on the same side) and often overlooks the impact on the human spirit. Engagement is contingent on success.

My observation of these styles is that they all suffer from leaders who are operating in unconscious, automatic, habitual, conditioned ways. These styles have been around for thousands of years, get passed down from generation-to-generation, and got us to this point. They have pushed the limits of command-and-control, of fear-based frameworks, of limiting beliefs about humans at work, and can offer us nothing more. If we are to evolve further, if we need to solve the big problems, if we want to increase the untapped potential of the human spirit, we need to evolve our leadership mindsets.

While most of us work for or within organizations that exhibit the styles above, I want to focus in on the evolving styles of leadership. There are a few newer versions of leaders that create more engagement, productivity, fulfillment and happiness at work. These men and women have been increasing in numbers over the past 30 years, and offer us a variety of examples of how to transform the nature, way and places of work right now.

The Collaborators are those who like to build teams and broaden the level of involvement for the workers. They are better communicators, influencers and motivators. These people welcome more input from employees, allowing people to feel more connected and a part of something bigger. They express more compassion and care and increase employee recognition and rewards.

The Integrators are those who blend a healthy balance from all styles and have a meaningful answer to the question ‘Why are we here, why does our organization exist beyond just to make money?” They are values driven and work to build more human-centric organizations, allowing all stakeholders to prosper by being affiliated. They are the more conscious leaders amongst us, and have the ability to see a broader picture, help us see it as well, and allow for others to find their best ways to participate in the organization.

According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share and realize: 41% fewer quality defects; 48% fewer safety incidents; 28% less shrinkage; 65% less turnover (low-turnover organizations); 25% less turnover; 37% less absenteeism.

What is your level of engagement where you work? What of your co-workers, employees? If we want to have better places where we come to work, we all need to do our part in raising our awareness, our consciousness, our understanding. Conscious leaders are needed at every level, in every department, in every role. Those in positions of authority who are more conscious can have such a huge impact.

As business has added to our lives, so has our knowledge about human nature, especially in and around people in groups and relationships. I’d like to offer the simplest and best definition I ever heard about work is “business is the way we serve each other materially in the best possible way.” What can happen when more conscious leaders take charge and build healthier, happier, more productive workplaces? It’s happening right now, and while small in numbers, are leading the new way of doing business on the planet.

The case for conscious leadership is clear.

If we want to have organizations that ignite the best in people, that provide safe and trusting cultures where people can express their full authenticity, where all stakeholders (beyond just the shareholders) obtain significant gains, then the cornerstone is advancing conscious leadership.

In future posts we will explore conscious leadership in greater depth. I invite you to continue to self-reflect, use my words to trigger your own thinking, spark your own awareness, and come to your own understandings. Assess, discern, investigate, look inside yourself, and continue the journey toward deepening your own definition and practice of conscious leadership!


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