The problem I frequently have with leadership concepts is that the language is confusing and I have trouble relating it to my day-to-day role as a leader. Take the phrase “limbic system,” which someone used this on me recently. I know that it has something to do with the brain, but given that I’m neither a neurologist nor a psychologist, I immediately shut down at the thought of having to learn what it is or does.
So on that note, I’m going to share one of my favorite leadership concepts, and tell you what it is, why it matters for you and your team, and how you can up your leadership skills. I’m going to tell you about “conscious leadership.”
What is conscious leadership?
In their book “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating The Heroic Spirit of Business,” John Mackey (co-CEO, Whole Foods) and Raj Sisodia (co-founder Conscious Capitalism Inc.) describe conscious leaders as “strong individuals who possess exceptional moral courage and are able to withstand constant scrutiny and criticism from those who view business in a more traditional manner.” They also state that these types of leaders aim to nurture and safeguard business for future generations.
What this means is that conscious leaders understand:
- Where the business is heading
- How their role helps achieve their goals
- How they should care for and motivate the team in order to get there.
Conscious leaders treat everyone equally and create working cultures that people want to contribute to and be a part of. They stand for all that is good in people, and use that to guide their thoughts and actions.
Why it’s important
In my experience, people want to enjoy work. They don’t want to work 9-5, pick up their pay check and moan about what they do to their friends over drinks or dinner. They want to work among people who take an interest in who they are, and share their thoughts and ideas. They want to be given work that stimulates them in an environment that supports them; they want to be recognized when they do good work and supported when they haven’t hit the mark.
This is why conscious leadership is important. Not only does it makes the practitioners feel good, but it makes the recipients feel good as well. Conscious leaders listen intently and offer suggestions to help the team grow. They put themselves in the shoes of their team member and use anecdotes and stories to reinforce a point or bring humor to a stressful or tense situation.
Conscious leaders are kind, thoughtful and go out of their way to make you feel special. In return, they gain your trust, your respect and most of all you want to work and succeed for them.
At the heart of every successful business you’ll find conscious leadership.
How can you become a conscious leader?
As with most leadership concepts, everyone has their own idea of what it is and how it should be applied—from sustainable practices and ethical purchases to simply being a nice person. But here are some tips to get you started:
- Become more self-aware
In the work I do with organizations, I find that when teams are disengaged or apathetic about their jobs, it’s a result of a leader having little to no self-awareness. So do yourself and your team a favor and list everything you can think of that you (or others) don’t like about your approach. It can be areas of improvement that you’ve been given feedback over time, or areas you know instinctively you could get better at: from the way you communicate, to how you run meetings or your lack of availability. Identify one area of improvement, focus on that and then work hard to change it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.
- Be generous with thank-yous
As a self-aware leader you know that your team does a lot (if not all) of the real work; so recognize this and say thanks more often. To keep it fresh, find different ways to show appreciation. Say it in person, either in a one-on-one meeting, or even a quick shout-out in passing; leave post-it notes, write a hand written card; call someone out in a group out in a team meeting. However you do it, make it clear that you’re a leader who appreciates the efforts that that your team members put in.
- Show humility and learn from your mistakes
In order to do this, you have to tap your knowledge source and make some tough decisions. For example, use the expertise of your team to help remove roadblocks and solve persistent challenges. If it turns out to be the wrong decision, take all of the responsibility for it, apologize, and learn from it. As Henry Ford once said “Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.”
There’s no dark art to becoming a conscious leader. Everyone can do it. To get there, you’ll need to cultivate positive behaviors, traits and life lessons that will do two important things: make your team feel valued, and feeling fulfilled as well. Who doesn’t want that?