Does putting together the words "conscious" and "leaders" seem odd or even off-putting to you? When I first encountered this pairing of words, what was it that caused my mind to ask, Gee, how conscious am I? and then wonder indignantly, What am I, unconscious?
What is consciousness, anyway, and what does it have to do with you getting the results you want from your business? We already know that running a business—or any organization or project, for that matter—requires a lot more than having someone self-aware in the driver's seat. Running a business requires good, smart, and committed people; processes that match the requirements of the task at hand; informed, satisfied customers or clients … the list goes on.
But our world is changing faster than we can even comprehend, and what's required of us as leaders now goes beyond the old-school command-and-control leadership tactics. Even if we have grown our organizations beyond those tactics so our teams are more collaborative, cohesive, engaged, and family-oriented, even the best of families have room for improvement when it comes to getting along and getting things done.
I have been called to a larger movement in business. Call it what you want: Conscious Capitalism, Conscious Business, and Integral Leadership are a few of the names for this movement. This movement inspires me to bring everything I am and everything I have to the game. Everything I’ve learned from a lifetime of movement discipline. All the coaching and facilitation approaches I’ve developed over the past sixteen years as I’ve supported leaders transitioning themselves and their organizations to higher levels of performance and satisfaction.
I'm calling this new endeavor Conscious Leaders, and I know that as we work with clients and as their awareness and leadership capacities expand, I too will be impacted. I know this because ever since I planted my flag in the ground for Conscious Leaders, this work is affecting me in deep and numerous ways.
Next Up: Why “Conscious”?
The dictionary definition for "conscious" is 1. Aware of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc. 2. Fully aware of or sensitive to something. The Latin roots are "con," meaning “with,” and "sci," meaning “knowledge.” Putting all this together, we can understand “conscious” as a variation on "sharing knowledge with."
Over the past decade or so, thought leaders have been discussing the notion that for organizations to thrive well beyond the next generation, not only do leaders need to develop their own awareness and approach to leadership, but organizations themselves need to be re-wired.
Our businesses need to become self-learning organisms, alive and present to the tectonic shifts of our current world and its evolving challenges. We are no longer just talking about creating engaged workforces and building emotional fortitude. We are actually being challenged to reconsider how we structure organizations themselves in order to respond more efficiently and effectively to an ever-changing environment with continuously fluctuating political and social concerns.
Yikes. No small task. But this is a strategic initiative that we can embrace courageously. Fear need not be a factor—but if it is present, then it serves a purpose. Fear demands that we wake up and be present. Fear reminds us that we need to bring our whole selves to the game.
In order to create these types of conscious, responsive organizations, we will be required to develop an embodied confidence and a deep capacity for transformation. We need to grow ourselves beyond just emotional intelligence; simply being masters of strategy and employee engagement is insufficient. Instead, we need to train ourselves and the people we work with to develop keen self-awareness, to recognize strategies we’ve used to survive and strategies we need to thrive. Mastering the language and actions of the exemplar leader is of utmost importance.
On a tactical note, "sharing knowledge with" also means learning to give and receive powerful feedback. Consciousness means understanding the universal human tendencies to protect our turf, to look good, to be right, and to win—and being able to move beyond those tendencies, being more intentional about how we perceive and process the world around us. We will communicate with deep honor and respect for all the stakeholders we touch. We will stand for the greatest good for the greatest many.
This is an exciting time on the planet, but many of us are overwhelmed. This is to be expected. Yet some will rise to the occasion. Who among us will lead the way, developing their own unique capacity for conscious leadership?
Lori Darley is the Founder and CEO of Conscious Leaders, and the author of Dancing Naked: Claiming Your Power as a Conscious Leader.