When you think about the idea of Conscious Leadership, you may even agree we need a different leadership paradigm. This is where you must pause, step back and look within. It starts with self awareness and a commitment to lead in a better way. Every intentional step that you take in becoming a more awake leader makes the journey that much more purpose-driven and fulfilling because you will be able to unlock the greatness in yourself and in those whom you serve. We’ll focus on practical ways you can begin developing everyday habits that will help you become a more conscious leader. None of these steps is esoteric or unachievable – there are endless ways for leaders to improve, inspire and engage employees.
1. Cultivate authenticity
Most of us don’t trust leaders who portray a perfect image. We want leaders to be real. Authenticity is having self-awareness, knowing who you are on the inside – your strengths, weaknesses, values, beliefs, leadership type – and bringing this into your conscious awareness.
How to cultivate:
Learn to be silent, to go within to recognize your inner wisdom, your purpose in life and then open yourself to its wise counsel.
Reflect on your leadership philosophy, values, beliefs, motives and style. What impact do all of these have on you, your team and organization?
Think about what people consistently tell you that you need to work on. What is one new behavior you’re willing to practice to be a authentic leader? What benefits will this new behavior bring to you, your team and organization?
2. Develop conscious awareness.
Awareness is fundamental to positive change, yet you must train yourself to be aware of it. When you do this, your mind becomes more focused and in tune with yourself and your environment – conscious awareness is being mindful, aware and present in the moment. It means being fully conscious of what’s going on, both within us and outside us, and how our behaviors affect others.
How to develop:
There are many ways to develop conscious awareness and mindfulness, including meditation, yoga and martial arts. All help us respond differently to life.
Take time to notice what it feels like to be aware. Stop for a moment to be aware of your awareness and observe. Don’t judge it, simply notice it.
Be aware of your current state of mind. Is it impatient? Curious? Creative? Calm? What about your energy levels or feelings? Spend just 10 minutes a day to reflect and journal on your awareness.
3. Grow and foster virtues
Virtues give meaning and purpose to our lives and include such things as service, love, courage, compassion, integrity, humility, generosity, accountability and transparency. Virtues develop our character. This takes time, so develop yourself in stages.
No one is perfect, yet the more we practice applying virtues in different situations, the stronger our character muscle becomes. We mature in our thinking, decisions, emotions and behaviors. Leading with virtues empowers organizations – and society – to operate with higher purpose. It also inspires others to be their best and delivers superior, sustainable results.
How to grow and foster:
Consider what you can do to encourage the conversations within yourself and with others to strengthen the importance that virtues and character have in leadership.
What practices, personal inquiry and reflection can you implement to develop one or two virtues to become a better leader?
Think about who can support you in this development.
4. Embrace purpose and vision
Purpose is why you exist. Great leaders communicate their why, the greater cause and what they stand for. The why must have a foothold in the hearts of people before you articulate what you want them to do. Viktor Frankl’s theory is that man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in one’s life. Frankl says, “those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.”
How to embrace:
What impact do you want to make as a leader? Why did you want to be a leader in the first place? What is the difference you are trying to make in the world? What do you stand for?
Think about your organization’s purpose. What is the vision for the future?
What is your message to inspire your team to rally behind this purpose and vision?
Reflect and journal a few minutes each day on these questions.
5. Practice Service
Create value for all stakeholders, employees and customers so the whole flourishes. Rise above self-interest and individual perspective and serve with a more global view. By practicing service, you understand and appreciate each person’s role in perfecting this world and lead others accordingly. You also trust and believe that individuals are critical links in the chain and that their unique skills fulfill a higher purpose.
How to practice service:
Explore how you are building a culture of service in a way that contributes to the good of all.
What development programs are in the organization that will foster conscious leadership and service for the greater good? How can you engage others in this conversation?
What can you do to show employees, stakeholders and customers that you respect, appreciate and care about their goals and needs?
6. Increase Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is based on years of research by scientists. It is about being aware of and managing our emotions and working more effectively with others to improve relationships and performance. People benefit in many ways from having a high level of emotional intelligence.
How to increase:
Take a baseline EQ assessment. Choose one skill and one strategy, then track and practice them for at least three months.
Learn to recognize stress triggers and how to deal with them.
Practice open-mindedness and curiosity.
Hire a coach to help you to develop and grow your emotional intelligence.
7. Build Support
Take a holistic approach to development. Find peers, coaches and mentors to help you in your ongoing development as a person and a leader.
How to build:
Read or attend a lecture or get involved in a conscious leadership community or forum.
When there are qualities you admire in a leader of strong character and virtue, ask yourself how you can stretch and grow to develop those qualities.
Make a commitment and take action to continuously grow and develop as a leader.