Home
About
Services
Menu
Back to all posts
May 19, 2021

Conscious Leadership Isn’t for Everyone

Over the years of working with individuals and teams I periodically hear people say, “Conscious leadership is not for me.” Maybe you’ve said this yourself or heard friends or colleagues express this sentiment.

Here’s my response: “Tell me more. I’d like to know what it is about being a conscious leader that isn’t for you..” I’ve already heard many responses to this invitation, including:

  • It’s too touchy feely.
  • If we do this “this conscious leadership thing,” it takes too much time away from doing the real work we have to do as a team. 
  • It’s supposed to reduce drama but, in fact, it increases drama.
  • It’s too risky to be really honest with people. 
  • It’s too complex.

When I hear these responses they almost always make sense to me. I have deep appreciation and respect for the person expressing their concerns and resistance. And, I agree with many people who say these things.

What I agree with is that living consciously and practicing conscious leadership is not for everyone. In fact, in my experience, it’s not for most people.

Before I say why I agree with people who hold this view and why I think this way of leading is not for most people, let me clarify what we’re choosing between. It’s not helpful to see that the choice is simply between being a conscious leader and an unconscious leader. This is too abstract. Rather the choice is about what we’re committed to. Remember, conscious leadership is a set of commitments. Our understanding of commitment is that it is simply an observation and clarification about how one is living, behaving, and investing their energy. You can tell what you’re committed to by your results, what is occurring. So, everyone is committed. The key is simply to clarify what one is committed to. I go on to clarify the choice points around commitments and conscious leadership. I usually go through the first seven commitments of the 15 Commitments, and ask, “Are you committed to …….

  1. Blaming and complaining vs taking responsibility and ending blame and criticism?
  2. Being right and proving you’re right versus learning and growing?
  3. Repressing your feelings and the feelings of others versus feeling your feelings in the healthiest way possible and supporting others to do the same?
  4. Revealing your thoughts, judgments and feelings; being more transparent vs withholding yourself in order to control outcomes? 
  5. Gossipping about people versus talking directly to them? 
  6. Making sloppy agreements versus being impeccable with your agreements? 
  7. Living from resentment and entitlement versus from appreciation? 

Again, just ask yourself, “If I look at the results of my life and how I am actually living, what am I committed to?”

Not, “what would l like to be committed to? Rather, “what am I actually doing?” Try to answer without any judgement that one way of living is better or worse than the other. They are just two choices.

So, practicing conscious leadership begins with taking responsibility, being curious and emotionally intelligent, telling your truth, resolving issues directly, keeping agreements and practicing appreciation. When someone says, conscious leadership is not for them, my specific question is, “Which of these is not for you? Or for your team?” This question moves the conversation from the abstract to the concrete. It invites us to clarify and choose, take responsibility if you will. I’ve suggested to many couples that they have this conversation to clarify what they’re up to in their relationship. I’ve worked with many teams where we have a lively conversation about which of these commitments they want to characterize their workplace and culture. 

Once we have clarified the issue, the choice point and the alternatives, I see that there are five reasons people decide that conscious leadership is not for them:

  • They don’t know enough about the options to make an intelligent decision. 

There are many people who have never been exposed to the concepts of conscious leadership and conscious living. For them, it’s an issue of education. The simple solution is for them to learn about this way of leading. For this reason we, and many others, are offering multiple content on-ramps that allow people to learn at a pace that works for them. Once they are informed they can make a choice. 

  • They prefer drama.

Over the years I’ve met many people who, once they understand the choices, pick drama over presence. As I said at the beginning of this article, they make sense to me. For them drama works. It works better than what they imagine the alternative to be. It isn’t always fun or productive (though sometimes it is both), but it gives them what they want. 

Drama gives us:

  • Familiarity over the unknown.
  • Certainty over ambiguity.
  • Control of our feelings (especially the ones we don’t want to feel).
  • A kind of connection with other people.
  • A sense of aliveness, albeit, chemically (adrenaline) induced but aliveness nonetheless.
  • The chance to fit in and go along with others who are living this way, rather than rocking the boat or risking being on a road less traveled. 

In my experience these are not small payoffs. They are the kind of payoffs all humans seek. For this reason, it makes sense to me that someone would not choose conscious leadership. What they’re doing and how they’re living is working well enough for them, and the alternative seems very risky.

  • They’ll lose important relationships that matter to them.

This one shows up like this, “If I commit to living this way ….

  • People will think I’m weird
  • My partner won’t want to be with me or I might not want to be with them if they don’t choose the same thing. We will have conflict and disharmony. 
  • I won’t fit in at work and, in fact, I’ll never find any place to work where I will fit in. 
  • I won’t know how to be with my family, roommates and old friends because we’ll all be playing a different game. 
  • I’ll end up alone.

These all make sense to me. At one point I observed that about 50% of the people I coached one on one in organizations—and about 20% of people in intimate relationships— chose to leave the organization and ended the relationship. If you’re afraid your relationships will change if you commit to conscious leadership, they will. What’s also true is that I can’t think of one person who left an organization and regrets the choice, and most everyone who ended a relationship is happy they did, though that isn’t always the case for their partner. 

  • They can’t handle too much happiness. 

This one sounds really strange. One would think that if you walked up to anyone on the street and said, “Would you like more happiness?,” most everyone, putting aside skepticism about the offer, would say yes. But my experience, and interestingly, the research on happiness, would indicate otherwise. When it comes to happiness we all tend to have a range that we live in. We’re like Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold. If we get sufficiently unhappy, we do something to bring ourselves up and back into our happiness comfort zone; if we get too happy we do something to bring ourselves down, back into the familiar zone. What the Hendricks call the “problem of the upper limit” really is a thing. In essence, it takes time and attention to expand our capacity for happiness; most people are unwilling and uninterested in investing the time and energy. 

As someone who has spent years expanding my capacity for happiness (peace, intimacy, success, wellbeing), I see the validity and the value of staying in one’s current zone of happiness, in the familiar. People who choose this make sense to me. 

  • They lose a sense of a personal “ME.” They no longer identify with all the roles they once played.

I include this one because people who travel the road of conscious leadership for a period of time (usually years) have resolved the issues above; they continue to educate themselves, they experience the value of presence over drama and choose it regularly, they have filled their lives with great relationships, and have expanded their capacity for happiness.

But then, as they go deeper into the truth of who they are they bump up against the dissolution of their identity. Like the Wicked Witch of the West, they experience a kind of “melting.” For most people this is scary and it invites them to surrender. Surrender becomes one of the last great choices to be made. And the thing about surrender is that it is not a once and for all decision. In fact, it becomes a daily, actually moment to moment, option for how to live life. People who have practiced surrendering and have learned the value of letting go of beliefs about who they thought they were, in order to experience the truth of who they really are, wouldn’t choose otherwise. And, it is often scary.

Conscious leadership isn’t for everyone, it’s true. But before you say it’s true—or not true—for you, check your beliefs against the distinctions above. Maybe a reframe will change your answer.  

Create your own user feedback survey

Over the years of working with individuals and teams I periodically hear people say, “Conscious leadership is not for me.” Maybe you’ve said this yourself or heard friends or colleagues express this sentiment.

Here’s my response: “Tell me more. I’d like to know what it is about being a conscious leader that isn’t for you..” I’ve already heard many responses to this invitation, including:

  • It’s too touchy feely.
  • If we do this “this conscious leadership thing,” it takes too much time away from doing the real work we have to do as a team. 
  • It’s supposed to reduce drama but, in fact, it increases drama.
  • It’s too risky to be really honest with people. 
  • It’s too complex.

When I hear these responses they almost always make sense to me. I have deep appreciation and respect for the person expressing their concerns and resistance. And, I agree with many people who say these things.

What I agree with is that living consciously and practicing conscious leadership is not for everyone. In fact, in my experience, it’s not for most people.


Before I say why I agree with people who hold this view and why I think this way of leading is not for most people, let me clarify what we’re choosing between. It’s not helpful to see that the choice is simply between being a conscious leader and an unconscious leader. This is too abstract. Rather the choice is about what we’re committed to. Remember, conscious leadership is a set of commitments. Our understanding of commitment is that it is simply an observation and clarification about how one is living, behaving, and investing their energy. You can tell what you’re committed to by your results, what is occurring. So, everyone is committed. The key is simply to clarify what one is committed to. I go on to clarify the choice points around commitments and conscious leadership. I usually go through the first seven commitments of the 15 Commitments, and ask, “Are you committed to …….

  1. Blaming and complaining vs taking responsibility and ending blame and criticism?
  2. Being right and proving you’re right versus learning and growing?
  3. Repressing your feelings and the feelings of others versus feeling your feelings in the healthiest way possible and supporting others to do the same?
  4. Revealing your thoughts, judgments and feelings; being more transparent vs withholding yourself in order to control outcomes? 
  5. Gossipping about people versus talking directly to them? 
  6. Making sloppy agreements versus being impeccable with your agreements? 
  7. Living from resentment and entitlement versus from appreciation? 

Again, just ask yourself, “If I look at the results of my life and how I am actually living, what am I committed to?”


Not, “what would l like to be committed to? Rather, “what am I actually doing?” Try to answer without any judgement that one way of living is better or worse than the other. They are just two choices.

So, practicing conscious leadership begins with taking responsibility, being curious and emotionally intelligent, telling your truth, resolving issues directly, keeping agreements and practicing appreciation. When someone says, conscious leadership is not for them, my specific question is, “Which of these is not for you? Or for your team?” This question moves the conversation from the abstract to the concrete. It invites us to clarify and choose, take responsibility if you will. I’ve suggested to many couples that they have this conversation to clarify what they’re up to in their relationship. I’ve worked with many teams where we have a lively conversation about which of these commitments they want to characterize their workplace and culture.

Once we have clarified the issue, the choice point and the alternatives, I see...

Five reasons people decide that conscious leadership is not for them:


They don’t know enough to make an intelligent decision

There are many people who have never been exposed to the concepts of conscious leadership and conscious living. For them, it’s an issue of education. The simple solution is for them to learn about this way of leading. For this reason we, and many others, are offering multiple content on-ramps that allow people to learn at a pace that works for them. Once they are informed they can make a choice. 


They prefer drama

Over the years I’ve met many people who, once they understand the choices, pick drama over presence. As I said at the beginning of this article, they make sense to me. For them drama works. It works better than what they imagine the alternative to be. It isn’t always fun or productive (though sometimes it is both), but it gives them what they want.

Drama gives us:

  • Familiarity over the unknown.
  • Certainty over ambiguity.
  • Control of our feelings (especially the ones we don’t want to feel).
  • A kind of connection with other people.
  • A sense of aliveness, albeit, chemically (adrenaline) induced but aliveness nonetheless.
  • The chance to fit in and go along with others who are living this way, rather than rocking the boat or risking being on a road less traveled. 

In my experience these are not small payoffs. They are the kind of payoffs all humans seek. For this reason, it makes sense to me that someone would not choose conscious leadership. What they’re doing and how they’re living is working well enough for them, and the alternative seems very risky.

They’ll lose important relationships that matter to them

This one shows up like this, “If I commit to living this way ….

  • People will think I’m weird
  • My partner won’t want to be with me or I might not want to be with them if they don’t choose the same thing. We will have conflict and disharmony. 
  • I won’t fit in at work and, in fact, I’ll never find any place to work where I will fit in. 
  • I won’t know how to be with my family, roommates and old friends because we’ll all be playing a different game. 
  • I’ll end up alone.

These all make sense to me. At one point I observed that about 50% of the people I coached one on one in organizations—and about 20% of people in intimate relationships— chose to leave the organization and ended the relationship. If you’re afraid your relationships will change if you commit to conscious leadership, they will. What’s also true is that I can’t think of one person who left an organization and regrets the choice, and most everyone who ended a relationship is happy they did, though that isn’t always the case for their partner. 

They can’t handle too much happiness

This one sounds really strange. One would think that if you walked up to anyone on the street and said, “Would you like more happiness?,” most everyone, putting aside skepticism about the offer, would say yes. But my experience, and interestingly, the research on happiness, would indicate otherwise. When it comes to happiness we all tend to have a range that we live in. We’re like Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold. If we get sufficiently unhappy, we do something to bring ourselves up and back into our happiness comfort zone; if we get too happy we do something to bring ourselves down, back into the familiar zone. What the Hendricks call the “problem of the upper limit” really is a thing. In essence, it takes time and attention to expand our capacity for happiness; most people are unwilling and uninterested in investing the time and energy.

As someone who has spent years expanding my capacity for happiness (peace, intimacy, success, wellbeing), I see the validity and the value of staying in one’s current zone of happiness, in the familiar. People who choose this make sense to me. 

They lose a sense of a personal “ME.” They no longer identify with all the roles they once played.

I include this one because people who travel the road of conscious leadership for a period of time (usually years) have resolved the issues above; they continue to educate themselves, they experience the value of presence over drama and choose it regularly, they have filled their lives with great relationships, and have expanded their capacity for happiness.

But then, as they go deeper into the truth of who they are they bump up against the dissolution of their identity. Like the Wicked Witch of the West, they experience a kind of “melting.” For most people this is scary and it invites them to surrender. Surrender becomes one of the last great choices to be made. And the thing about surrender is that it is not a once and for all decision. In fact, it becomes a daily, actually moment to moment, option for how to live life. People who have practiced surrendering and have learned the value of letting go of beliefs about who they thought they were, in order to experience the truth of who they really are, wouldn’t choose otherwise. And, it is often scary.

Conscious leadership isn’t for everyone, it’s true.

But before you say it’s true—or not true—for you, check your beliefs against the distinctions above. Maybe a reframe will change your answer. 

Related posts

Are you on the Treadmill?
Conscious Leadership is Like Pickleball