November 29

Conscious Leadership: Challenging, a touch messy and oh-so rewarding.

Last Friday I delivered a workshop in the tranquil setting of an award winning wine estate in the beautiful Cape to a group of highly successful women entrepreneurs. The topic was “Build A Conscious Leadership Brand” and I knew the conscious element was likely to be challenging and a touch messy.

Being conscious, mindful or fully present is not an easily uploadable intellectual programme. It’s a journey best taken with the heart. And that’s a tough call for most of us who have been schooled in the art of acquiring knowledge and doing vs sensing, perceiving, trusting our intuition and being.

So why take a messy, seemingly complex and often personally challenging journey best led with the heart, when we are already successful? Apart from the fact that conscious leaders driving conscious businesses (Conscious Capitalism) has proven to be more profitable, which is always a sound driver, its incredibly rewarding and its what today’s connected human economy demands.

Saying this, in order to get to grips with this question in context, we really need to go big. If we had any doubts around the vital, urgent need for leaders to change how they do what they do in government, society and business, 2016’s systemic disruption has revealed all in the form of Brexit and Trump to mention the most obvious two.

In response to Trump winning the US elections, Otto Scharmer (MIT/u.lab) says it best in an article in the Huffington Post, published a week after the election titled On the Making of Trump—The Blind Spot That Created Him when discussing how systemic disruption gives rise to three conflicting cultures:

  1. Downloading: same old, same old.
  2. The cycle of absencing: denying, de-sensing, blaming, and destroying (closing the mind, heart, will).
  3. The cycle of presencing: seeing, sensing, crystallizing, and co-creating (opening the mind, heart, will).

Scharmer goes on to say: “Letting go of any illusion that the necessary changes of our time will originate from the White House or any other top-down structure. It will come instead from a new global movement of local and multi-local change makers that apply the mindset of Michelle Obama (open mind, heart, will) onto the transformation of the collective.

As we begin responding to the disruption of this week, we have an opportunity to organize in new ways that go beyond the usual responses to disruption:

  1. Personal rage: taking it out on something outside ourselves,
  2. Personal change: using that energy to transform oneself, or
  3. Movements that react against the symptoms of the social and ecological divides.”

Whilst we grapple with the uncertainty and potential consequences of 2016 amidst the context of digital disruption, many of the leaders I coach are feeling more than a little befuddled. The issues can seem so vast, so all encompassing and ‘out there’, beyond our influence. Yet we know there is only one element we ever have any real control over, and that is self.

And if you are in a leadership role, who you are and how you do what you do dictates so much. Your personal impact and influence is far greater than you might imagine. It starts with your corporate culture and ultimately drives a collective consciousness with all of your stakeholders and beyond. And then we have a tipping point. And then we have a movement…

The good news is the tipping point has occurred, the movement is already here. There are numerous concurrent initiatives driving multi-sector change around the world. Each and every one born out of the determination of ordinary people like you and me to see and contribute to the whole eco-system, and to escape the restrictions of our legacy silo’s (Gillian Tett – The Silo Effect) for our own personal growth and for the good of all.

It’s not at all clear how this world of work will unfold – it’s unlike anything we have experienced before. What is clear is there is a rising common desire and determination to be connected to a greater, values-based purpose, personally, in business and society.

We are experiencing a collective shift and the much needed emergence of more conscious, creative, innovative, agile leadership at all levels. And this is what makes the the heart led journey undeniably worthwhile.


2016, Brexit, Conscious Leadership, Gillian Tett, leadership brand, Otto Scharmer, Trump

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