Conscious Leadership: These practices will set you free (for now)

Here is the most comprehensive summary of Conscious Leadership I could put together. Enjoy !

“Conscious Business – business that is conscious of inner and outer worlds – would therefore be business that takes into account body, mind, and spirit in self, culture and nature. […] This means specifically that integral business leadership would use the tools that have been developed to best navigate and master self, culture and world. It’s not surprising, then, that business management theories break down into three large categories covering the Big Three landscapes: approaches that focus on individual motivation; those that emphasize corporate culture and values; and those that focus on exterior objective systems, flow patterns, and quality control. The whole point is that integral business leadership would use the tools of all of them in a coordinated and integrated fashion for maximum results, or else settle for less than optimal results.”

ken wilber, in kofman, 2008

In my research on Conscious Business, I have looked at how to create a Conscious Business from an individual perspective. That takes Conscious Leadership. I find two key streams of influence highly valuable.

First, the work of Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp from the Conscious Leadership Group in their book 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership are simple, yet truly transformational when practiced. Second, I find Fred Kofman’s work on Conscious Business excellent. I made the link between these two works by using the structure of the first, and adding in parenthesis the corresponding chapters from Kofman’s book.

Before we start with the commitments, there is a distinction that helps to locate yourself in what I call the “line of consciousness”. Dethmer, Chapman and Klemp simply call it “the line”.

This is the line that delimitates the state of fear from the state of trust and love.

You can be above the line, or below the line.

To know where you are located, simply ask yourself:

“Where am I right now?”

If you are open, curious, and committed to learning, you are above the line.

If you are closed, defensive, and committed to being right, you are below the line.

That being said, let’s look at the 15 commitments which are all about choosing to be above the line.

1)    Responsibility

“I commit to taking full responsibility for the circumstances of my life.”

That matches with Fred Kofman’s first principle of Conscious Business, Unconditional Responsibility (#2) whichis the ability to respond effectively and to choose one’s response in any given situation, even in the worst external circumstances. I have written about this principle already in the article on Responsibility, Leadership and Integrity in Challenging times.

2)    Curiosity

“I commit to learning and growing in self-awareness.”

This is the opposite of the natural tendency we have to want to be right and defending our position.

3)    Feelings

“I commit to feeling my feelings all the way through completion.”

This is a commitment to the development of our Emotional Intelligence, and the healthy processing of emotions. When we don’t do so, as emotions are energy, they get stuck in the body and can build up pain and physical illness over time. Kofman talks about Emotional Mastery. To grow in this area, there are five key skills we can develop, following Daniel Goleman’s research:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-acceptance
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-inquiry
  • Self-expression

4)    Candor

“I commit to saying what is true for me, and to invite others to express themselves with candor to me.”

Candor takes courage, and allows us to learn to be vulnerable. Brené Brown is a great inspiration with her Power of Vulnerability (2012). (You can watch her Ted Talk.) Kofman talks about the art of Authentic Communication (#5). We often tend to communicate in convoluted ways, and it is easy to fall into manipulative tactics to getting what we want. Authentic communication revolves around speaking from the heart, in a very direct way, and asking for what we truly want, expressing how we feel, and listening to the other’s needs and feelings as well. Learning Non-Violent Communication as developed by Marshall Rosenberg (2003) can be a great way to make progress in this area.

5)    Gossip

“I commit to ending gossip, going direct when I have an issue, and encouraging others to do the same.”

I remember one of my friends in Brazil, who spoke up when a few people were gossiping about somebody else in our Negotiation Delegation. I thought he had great courage. You might have noticed the energy cost of gossip if you worked in unconscious organizations.

6)    Integrity

“I commit to integrity by feeling my feelings, expressing my truth and keeping my agreements.”

Challenging one. Kofman speaks about Essential Integrity (#3). Indeed, there are moments where we cannot succeed, and adverse circumstances become too challenging. This is why Integrity is critical. This is a guarantee for success beyond success. By serving our highest values and aspirations instead of focusing on the short term gains, we do not secure a winning spot on the pole position, but we do secure our self-esteem and long-term gains through trust, cooperation, self-respect and self-confidence. Once again, you can refer to my article discussing this key point in more detail here.

Kofman also emphasizes the importance of Impeccable Coordination (#7), the art of creating clear agreements. This means to be 100% clear on what we commit to, and what we do not commit to and help others do the same. I highly recommend his approach to making clear commitments: There are six and only six answers possible to a request (p. 215):

1. « Yes, I promise. »

2. « No, I do not commit. » (although I can try…)

3. « I need clarification. »

4. « I commit to respond by (a definite date). »

5. « I accept conditionally. I can commit to do what you ask if R (a mutually observable condition) happens. Would that work for you?

6. « Let me make a counteroffer. I can’t commit to doing X by Y, but I could do S by T. Would that work for you? »

7)    Appreciation

“I commit to living in appreciation, fully opening to both receiving and giving appreciation.”

Appreciation can be cultivated. A healthy practice is to start the day by taking a few breaths, (if you meditate, this can be done right afterwards when your mind is calmer), and thinking about one thing you feel grateful for. Then, think about another. And another. That takes less than two minutes.

8)    Genius

“I commit to living in my genius and inspiring others to do the same.”

That means cultivating and honing your talents. This means finding your Zone of Genius, and expressing it more. The Zone of Genius is what you can do with ease and effortlessly, yet you find deep joy in doing/being it, and others benefit greatly from this talent. James Hillman wrote an excellent book on the psychology of Genius, The Soul’s Code (2017).h

9)    Play

“I commit to creating a life of play, improvisation, and laughter; and to honouring rest, renewal and rhythm.”

I can be a champion at taking life, work and things too seriously. Play is a great invitation. I love it when my coach, Rich Litvin, says “Let’s play”, instead of “Lets get into coaching.”

10) Opposite of my Story

“I commit to seeing that the opposite of my story is as true or truer than my original story.”

This commitment can set us free. Kofman talks about Ontological Humility (#4), which means recognizing that we hold only one fraction of the Truth. That is embodied in the story of the Chinese farmer (told by Alan Watts here). A great practice to cultivate this commitment is The Work, by Byron Katie.

11) Approval

“I commit to being the source of my security, control and approval.”

In a world where we spend a lot of time trying to please others, that is a great invitation to be our own authority. A healthy remedy is the distinction between Serving vs. Pleasing. Serve others, please yourself.

12) Enough

“I commit to experiencing that I have enough of everything: time, money, love and energy.”

I would even go further: “I know that I AM enough.” You can repeat yourself this affirmation. Write it down and stick it where you can see it.

If there are areas of your life where you feel/think that you don’t have enough, you can work on it.

13) Allies

“I commit to seeing all people and circumstances as allies to help me learn what I most need to grow.”

The Obstacle is the Way, as Ryan Holiday’s book titles. This colleague that you resent for being so intruding is teaching you to set clear boundaries. This partner that you are with who steals you away from your life purpose might be teaching you to relax (as depicted majestically in the movie The Fountain). The Universe is conspiring to make you greater and better.

14) Win for All

“I commit to creating win for all solutions.”

That is the principle of Value Creation. How to create offers, solutions which benefit all and generate tremendous value and values? Kofman speaks about Constructive Negotiation (#6). Another great reference for negotiation skills is Roger Fisher and William Ury’s classic Getting to Yes (2011).h

15) Being the Resolution

“I commit to being the resolution or solution, to see what is missing as an invitation to be that.”

Kofman eloquently speaks about Entering the market with helping hands. If you don’t like the capitalistic tone of “market”, replace it by “World”. Who can you help? Who can you serve? If you can be that, you can get more energy, money, love, success and fulfilment than you will ever need.

That is what I call Committed Service, which is the willingness to serve others. Whether our own team and people (as a Servant Leader as described by Greenleaf, 1998), or our customers, the willingness to serve is a key factor of success in Conscious Business. It is about serving our clients so powerfully, that they never forget our service for the rest of their lives. It is also about holding strong boundaries, as our customers are not kings, they are gods, and if we are to serve them, we also need to set our boundaries as humans of what we will and will not do for them (we are not meant to be our customer’s slaves).

I would add a sixteenth which could also be the first:

16) Creator

“I commit to being the creator of my reality, my life and my business.”

Creation is key. That’s what we do as humans, whether consciously or unconsciously. I believe that a Conscious Leader must always be aware that he has an unlimited creative power, which allows him to respond to any situation in a creative way (=Unconditional Responsibility), but also to create novel situations, services and products and thus innovate. Their creativity allows them to create an amazing team, a compelling and inspiring vision, tremendous customer experiences, and a wonderful life. Creativity, like everything else, takes practice. We create from the most simple things such as cooking to the most sophisticated and complex human undertakings such as creating a visionary city (such as Auroville). There are many resources on creativity, among which I would recommend Steve Chandler’s Creator (2019).

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To go further, you can read The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp (2015). I would also recommend Fred Kofman’s Conscious Business (2008).

References

  • Brown, B. (2012). The power of vulnerability: Teachings on authenticity, connection and courage [Audio-book]. Louisville, CO, USA: Sounds True.
  • Chandler, S. (2011). Time Warrior. Richmond: Maurice Bassett.
  • Chandler, S. (2019). Creator. Richmond: Maurice Bassett.
  • Dethmer, J., Chapman, D., & Klemp, K. (2015). The 15 commitments of conscious leadership: A new paradigm for sustainable success. Conscious Leadership Group.
  • Fisher, R., Ury, W. L., & Patton, B. (2011). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. Penguin.
  • Greenleaf, R. K. (1998). The power of servant-leadership: Essays. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  • Hillman, J. (2017). The soul’s code: In search of character and calling. Ballantine Books.
  • Kofman, F. (2008). Conscious business: How to build value through values (Vol. 1). ReadHowYouWant. com.
  • Rosenberg, M. (2003). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

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