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December 20, 2014

How to Become a Conscious Leader

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Many people are interested in becoming a more conscious (awake, present, engaged) leader. At the Conscious Leadership Group we believe there are three foundational moves that are the basis of all conscious leadership. If you want to be a conscious leader you must master these moves.

1. Move from drifting to committing

No one has ever become a conscious leader without committing to being a conscious leader. Every October, 40,000 people run the Chicago Marathon. No one will finish that great test of discipline and fortitude without committing. For many, the commitment began months or years ago when one day (and then on many, many consecutive days) they committed to run a marathon. Conscious leadership is not accidental. It is intentional. In our experience, this intention and commitment is not a one-time decision. In life we all commit. We commit to lose 10 lbs, to be a more present parent or to achieve our sales goals. We commit and then we drift away from our commitment. We find ourselves eating a cookie, zoning out while talking to our kids or doing something other than the next action step to reach our sales goal.

The issue is not the original commitment; it’s the infinite number of recommitments. The pattern of life and conscious leadership is commit and drift shift. Shifting is the act of recommitting.

So here are the key questions: “Are you committed to being a conscious leader? What is one concrete evidence that proves your commitment?”

2. Move from blaming to claiming

What most distinguishes a conscious leader from an unconscious leader is that conscious leaders claim responsibility by taking it. Unconscious leaders spend their time blaming people, circumstances and conditions for what is happening in their lives. They blame others and they blame themselves. Conscious leaders understand that responsibility is not something that can be assigned. It can only be taken.

In every situation, conscious leaders notice their impulse to blame, to point a finger and to find fault. They catch this tendency and then they choose—they choose responsibility. Choosing responsibility means asking, “How have I created or contributed to this?” and not “Who did it?” Conscious leaders understand that there is tremendous power in claiming responsibility and no power in looking to the past to find fault.The question, “How have I created this?” is not just code for blaming yourself.

That would be unconscious leadership. When conscious leaders ask, “How have I created this?” they are asking from curiosity and wonder. They assume that whatever is happening is for their and the organization’s learning. They don’t want to waste a second missing a learning opportunity. Unconscious leaders can come up with infinite evidence that they didn’t create or contribute to the situation while conscious leaders want to determine exactly how they did. They see that they contributed by what they did or didn’t do, by what they said or didn’t say and by how they were being or not being as a leader. They lead their organizations by being the first to step into any situation with the words, “I’M RESPONSIBLE” and, “Here is what I’m learning.”

3. Move from being right to being curious

Everyone’s ego desperately wants to be right and, more importantly, to prove that it’s right. The ego actually believes that if it’s wrong, it’s dead. Unconscious leaders will fight to the finish to prove they’re right. Conscious leaders have the same knee jerk ego-based reaction to being right. They see the reaction, they breathe, and they choose to move from being right to being curious. In order to be curious one has to be secure. Conscious leaders don’t need constant outside validation to prove that they are valuable, in control or safe.

Because of this deep security (which can be developed over time and is another skill of conscious leadership), they lead with childlike wonder and curiosity. Like a child they look at all situations with fresh eyes, and in doing so, they see things about people and situations that leaders who are attached to proving their rightness never see.

To apply this right now, think about a conflict you’re currently in. Like all conflicts, it’s rooted in two sides wanting to be right. In this conflict, what are you right about? Write it down. Make a list. Feel your rightness, maybe even your self-righteousness. If you stay on this path, what you get to be in the end is right. For many leaders this is the goal, but not for conscious leaders. Proving your right is the booby prize. We tell leaders all the time what they already know from experience. If you fight to be right you get to be right, but you don’t get to be happy or connected to people or creative or experiencing life in a new and expansive way. Conscious leaders move over and over again from wanting to be right to being deeply curious.

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