An Invitation to Become a More Conscious Leader
For hundreds of generations including our own, we have been conditioned to a “domination” mindset of leadership that puts the needs of one human being above another. Whomever the person in power — the king, the boss, the teacher, the parent, the priest, the government official — their choices and their will are imposed on those they lead.
The domination mindset of leadership is based on fear: "do what I say, or else I will use my power to harm you (“punishment”)."
And I have language that I can use so that you — not I — are responsible for the harm I do to you: “you deserve it."
The more benevolent leaders in this mindset emphasize giving you something you want (a "reward") if you do what they say.
Either way, the person in power is using the extrinsic motivation of rewards and punishments to manipulate and coerce the people they lead to do what they say.
At the core of this domination leadership is a mindset of “I matter — and you don’t.”
Over the millennia this domination mindset has been built into our language, our thinking, our culture, our families, our institutions, our laws, our policies — perpetuating the mindset so that it becomes pervasive, invisible and subconscious. We say ”that’s just the way the world is” … “that’s just what a leader is.”
“Conscious” leadership sees another way.
It flows from a mindset of “I matter AND you matter” that is based on trust and care.
I am reminded of a children’s book by Douglas Wood called Old Turtle and the Broken Truth. The story highlights the contrast in living from the “broken” truth of “you are loved …” with the “whole” truth of “you are loved … and so are they.” In the broken truth, we see ourselves as being more valuable than others. In the whole truth, we see each other as equally valuable in our humanity.
For the conscious leader, people are valued intrinsically because each person has a sacred dignity which is grounded in a divine core.
Conscious Leadership, as I am defining it,
Conscious Leadership challenges the underlying and hidden mindset from which all domination leadership flows.
Namely, if human beings are valued, then any use of coercion, manipulation, rewards, punishment or harm diminishes the value and dignity of the human being, and has no place.
Instead, a conscious leader leads by igniting people’s intrinsic motivation to contribute and belong to something bigger than themselves which they mutually value.
If human beings are truly valued,
For example, when an organization values the human need “to be heard,” you would observe people having conversations that value being heard, as well as organizational structures and processes that value being heard.
For instance, you would see leaders avoiding the tendency to dismiss what another person is saying by labeling it as “complaining” or “whining.” And meetings would include a structure such as rounds where each person has an explicit opportunity to speak and be heard.
The first step toward conscious leadership then,
I value you and your human needs as much as I value myself and my own human needs.
To embrace the mindset is to move toward it, starting from wherever you are. It’s the yearning to lead from this new mindset that propels the conscious leader forward in her own development. It’s the openness to embrace the new language, the new thinking, and the new way of being that this mindset invites.
What matters is not to be a conscious leader, but to become a more conscious leader. It means an ongoing commitment of authentic self-discovery to see where domination still lives within you, and to consciously practice new thinking and new language in alignment with “I matter AND you matter AND we matter.”
What does leadership look like
What does leadership look like that refuses to use coercion, manipulation or punishment to get work done? What does “strength” look like in such a leader? What does “accountability” look like in this environment?
I hope to shine a light on such questions in the weeks to come to create more clarity around what it means to be a conscious leader.