“We thrive when we recognize a fundamental interconnectedness of all things in the universe, including all people. And when we can bring that interconnectedness on top of the interpersonal and the internal, we now have some profound leadership opportunities.”
What is conscious leadership and what does it look like in practice? In this session, Alison Whitmire, President of Learning In Action, welcomes guest Eric Kaufmann, founder and president of Sagatica, Inc. for an in-depth conversation about Conscious Leadership and how we can practice it.
Eric Kaufmann is an executive coach, speaker, and author of Four Virtues of a Leader. Nineteen years ago, Eric quit his corporate gig to form an executive development consultancy. He describes his work as an unrelenting commitment to results and an unyielding regard for the human spirit. He is a thought leader for the Institute of Coaching at Harvard, former business chair, and TEDx speaker.
We are at a time in history where religion and government no longer have the influence they once did. Moral authority has transferred over to business and commerce, as these entities have become the shapers of our society. Business leaders are unprepared and often unaware of the role they’re playing as leaders in their organizations and also leaders of humanity. For many, this is a role they didn’t sign up for, yet one that calls them to a new kind of leadership.
This new call to leadership brings with it the need for us to recognize this truth: Life and leadership itself are fraught with uncertainty. And it is this groundlessness of life that is a significant part of what it means to awaken to being a conscious leader. At its essence, consciousness calls on the leader to engage from a transcendent, life-centered perspective.
In the simplest of terms, Kaufmann defines Conscious Leadership as “organizing and influencing people to achieve meaningful results while respecting that this is the only life we have.” And doing so with curiosity, compassion, and boldness. In our leading role, not only are we serving the mission of the business, the board, and the values of stakeholders, we are also serving life as part of our journey.
Conscious Leadership is guided by the three pillars of wisdom, love, and courage — a triune of intelligence that shows up across many wisdom traditions. Practicing Conscious Leadership involves awakening, attuning, and aligning all three of these elements in a dynamic way.
As we evolve into Conscious Leadership, we engage with life and move from a self-centered to a life-centered perspective, where we develop a deeper capacity to listen to what is happening within us, around us, and beyond us.
Here’s an example of Conscious Leadership in action: We may be working on a team and find the group is taking too much time to make a decision. We might sense an uncomfortable feeling or something below the surface that hasn’t been said. Using Conscious Leadership, we use our hearts to connect to our team, our wisdom to analyze the situation, and then we call on the principle of courage to engage the group in a more direct way. We take the risk to say what needs to be said and ask questions in an honest way that allows us to get to the core of what may have been previously held back. We take courageous action to move the group forward.
Part of consciousness is being aware of and relating to others. It also requires an awareness of life or what our present circumstances call for. Conscious Leadership calls on us to ask some fundamental questions: What does life want of me right now? What does the team need right now that may not be comfortable yet will serve them?
The nature of Conscious Leadership is that it evolves us as leaders. It adds more context, nuance, and receptiveness to other more familiar leadership models. It brings a transpersonal element that allows us to build upon ourselves as servant or adaptive leaders.
We often make the mistake of thinking that our consciousness begins and ends with our individual entity. When we recognize the fundamental interconnectedness of all things in the universe including all people, and bring that sense of communion to the interpersonal and the internal aspects, it creates a foundation for profound leadership opportunities.When we recognize the fundamental interconnectedness of all things in the universe including all people, and bring that sense of communion to the interpersonal and the internal aspects, it creates a foundation for profound leadership… Click To Tweet
One of the obvious things that can get in the way of practicing Conscious Leadership is our human condition or our egos. When we are identified with our ego, we have a sense of a limited capacity. Our egos don’t like to come to terms with the expansiveness of the uncertainty of life, and resistance can arise.
Cultural constructs and behaviors can also block us from leaning into this leadership style. It takes practice to transcend — to recognize that we are individuals yet so much more. We also may hold the belief that we’re already conscious, and we may miss out on the quality of the beginner’s mind that’s so valuable in the learning process.
The embodiment of Conscious Leadership is different for everyone. We can think of it as the ability to hold space for what’s possible with wisdom, curiosity, and awareness. At the same time, it calls us to hold the qualities of care, compassion, love, and a bold, action-oriented philosophy. When we bring all of these elements into the dynamic flow of one another, we create an environment of consciousness. Even more, as we model courageousness and heart-based care, we naturally awaken and embolden that in others.
As times change, business leaders have taken on more of an influential role in society, calling for new types of leadership. With the principles of wisdom, love, and courage, we can use Conscious Leadership to engage our teams from a transcendent, life-centered perspective. The principles call on us to be courageous and take our leadership to the next level by helping our people to be truly present, mindful, and to learn to reside in reality as it is. Conscious Leadership encourages us to boldly hold space for those we lead and open their eyes to new possibilities.
Book: Four Virtues of a Leader