On Conscious Leadership

Conscious leadership is all about one thing: a black line.

Let me explain.

In The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, authors Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp ask us to imagine a simple, black line. As leaders, they explain, we can be either above or below this line.

Above the line, we are open, curious, and committed to learning. When we are below the line, we are closed, defensive and committed to being right.

Insecurity and fear can draw us below the line, and will often keep us there. Conscious leadership is first and foremost about developing better self-awareness; of recognizing the line, and being truthful to yourself about your position on it. Knowing where you are on the line is more important than being above the line all the time, and is the first step to becoming better at shifting your position.

Below the line, we are often in a victim mindset, where we are constantly beset by outside forces, and it feels like things happen “to me”. By shifting, we can move to a mindset of responsibility, where we choose how we react to outside forces and direct our own life, and you can start to feel like things happen “by me”.

The book further expands this concept into 15 commitments that we can make to become more conscious leaders.

The 15 commitments of conscious leadership

1. Taking radical responsibility

Instead of placing blame, take responsibility

2. Learning through curiosity

Learn about yourself to become more self-aware. Recognize when you are above the line (open, curious and committed to learning) or below the line (defensive, closed and committed to being right)

3. Feeling all feelings

Learn to locate, name and express your feelings

4. Speaking candidly

Practice speaking with candor, revealing all thoughts, feelings an sensations in an open, honest and aware way.

5. Eliminating gossip

Fear is usually at the center of gossip. Learn to speak directly to one another.

6. Practicing integrity

Integrity is the practice of keeping agreements, taking responsibility, revealing authentic feelings, and expressing unarguable truth. Make clear agreements, keep them, renegotiate when needed, and clean them up when broken.

7. Generating appreciation

Committing to appreciation helps leaders and organizations grow value in the workplace. Masterful appreciation is sincere, unarguable, specific and succinct.

8. Excelling in your zone of genius

Assess, understand and appreciate your own unique genius, and help others do the same. Aim to spend most of your time in that zone.

9. Living a life of play and rest

Play and rest are crucial for long-term performance. Honor rest, renewal and personal rhythms.

10. Exploring the opposite

Consider that the opposite of your beliefs could be just as true, or truer. Question your beliefs, and adopt a curious mindset.

11. Sourcing approval, control and security

Everyone seeks approval, control and security. Learn to find these in yourself, instead of outside yourself.

12. Having enough of everything

Adopt a mindset of sufficiency in everything: time, money, love, energy, space, and resources. These things are like water: regardless of the flow, you direct where it goes.

13. Experiencing the world as an ally

Frame other people and circumstances as allies in your learning and growth, rather than obstacles to getting what you want.

14. Creating win for all solutions

Business and life are not zero-sum games. Commit to creating positive-sum solutions to your challenges

15. Being the resolution

See what is missing in your world, and regard it as an invitation to become the solution

Next steps

Here are some next steps you can take if this essay has piqued your interest: