At my first full-time job in my 20s, I remember walking into the office every morning and looking to my co-workers to gauge the manager’s mood that day. If I got a nod, I knew I could say good morning. If not, I just quietly sat at my desk until I knew it was ‘safe’ to speak.
Later in my career, I remember another manager that spoke in such a matter-of-fact way, that she never realized how her words affected the team. In fact, one day the receptionist left for lunch and never came back. There were also managers that never wanted to hear what anyone had to say and always had their own agendas.
This leadership style left me feeling isolated, afraid, and feeling like I added no value to these organizations.
In one of my first roles as a leader I remember the times that the President of the company would come out of his office with a raised voice looking for answers. He would question why groups of employees were huddled talking to each other because he assumed they were not working hard, even though they were usually discussing the project that they were collaborating on. When those events happened, everyone would scramble to get him an answer or shamefully go back to their desks as if they had done something wrong.
I always saw fear and panic in everyone and didn’t always know how to fix that.
I also remember the leaders that took the time to get to know me personally and professionally. The ones that taught me, listened to me, and shared their knowledge and experience with me. They did this because they wanted to support my career growth. They empowered me, trusted me, and allowed me to make my own mistakes.
When I did make mistakes, I knew I would still be supported and not shamed or blamed. They were invested in me and as a result I was invested in them and their organizations. These were the leaders I knew I could go to if I was struggling with my job. I felt safe, not judged, and always felt supported. This is conscious leadership.
I learned early on in my career what the difference between conscious and unconscious leadership was, and I knew there was only one option of leadership style for me. I may not have always been the best leader at times but, I always tried to do my best. I spent a lot of time developing my self-awareness, which allowed me to self-reflect on my actions and behaviors and, if needed, make different choices going forward.
Conscious leadership focuses on self-awareness, mindfulness, relationships, purpose, and authenticity.
This type of leader will respond instead of react. Conscious leaders practice mindfulness and are able to check their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They will typically invest in their own personal and professional growth. This style of leadership is usually employee focused. They support their employees and provide the tools and resources needed to help them grow their careers. These leaders typically encourage collaboration and will usually admit when they don’t have all the answers. They can easily adapt to change and help support others through the change.
Unconscious leaders usually lead from fear with lack empathy and have little understanding or care of their employees’ needs. They lack the self-awareness of how their emotions, thoughts and behaviors affect others. As a result, they may have poor communication, micromanage, and show lack of transparency. This style of leadership typically comes from the need to be in control. The message the employee receives is “I don’t trust you.” Instead of motivating and encouraging employees like conscious leadership does, this type of leadership leads to poor morale, low motivation, and high turnover. It is often said, most employees do not leave their jobs, they leave their leadership.
When I have worked for conscious leaders, I strive to do more. I am excited and motivated to show up every day. I want to collaborate with leadership to make the company a place that supports our clients and our employees.
When I worked for unconscious leaders, I still wanted to know how to make the company a place that supports clients and employees, but it often felt harder to do and as a conscious leader, I burnt out quicker, because I felt alone and unsupported.
Some of the things that may make someone an unconscious leader can be lack of leadership development, poor or no role models, and lack of self-awareness. Having the ability to shift to conscious leadership starts with awareness. Even if you don’t know how to change, that is ok, because having the awareness is your first step.
What benefits do organizations get from conscious leadership?
Promotes positive work environment
When employees enjoy coming to work it increases productivity, allows for open communication and they enjoy collaborating. They feel that they are part of the solution and are more engaged and less likely to leave the organization because they feel heard, appreciated, and valued.
Promotes innovative thinking
Conscious leaders are open to new ideas from their teams and allow for creative and innovative thinking. They encourage participation from their employees and when they feel heard it allows them to feel part of the solution and they are usually more engaged at work. When employees feel heard, they will continue to share their thoughts and ideas and as a result it can lead to better efficiencies and a better client service experience.
Conscious leaders are more focused on the outcome than the process and as a result do not micromanage their employees and provide them autonomy to accomplish the tasks. Empowered and motivated employees are more engaged and as a result more productive and will take ownership of their work and feel accountable for their role within the organization.
Conscious leaders are mindful of the people they interact with. They are able to build stronger relationships with clients, employees, and others within the organization. They effectively communicate, build trust, and will often show their appreciation for others within the organization. They treat others with respect and make the effort to develop connections with those that they interact with.
What does it take to be a conscious leader?
Learn to recognize your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Often when we are unconscious and we have an emotional reaction to a situation, our first defense is to blame others instead of looking inward at what has been triggered within us. When we are triggered, we may appear defensive, angry, or frustrated at others. Conscious work is the ability to look internal first and check in with yourself to ask:
- ‘What am I feeling?’
- ‘Where does this feeling come from?’
- ‘How do I want to respond here?’
When we are starting out in consciousness work, we cannot always catch ourselves in the moment but, we can be self-reflective and ask, ‘What would I do differently next time?’
Learning to identify your strengths and weaknesses and use your strengths to support areas that you want to improve will help strengthen your response each time.
Learn to pause before speaking. This allows you the opportunity to respond instead of react. Meditate, journal and don’t forget to breathe! Always stay present. You cannot change what has already happened and you cannot control what might happen in the future.
Surround yourself with other conscious people.
Build strong relationships both in work and in your personal life. You become the people you surround yourself with. Choose wisely. Notice how you feel when you are around them. Do they bring you up or pull you down?
Find a mentor. They provide support, guidance, and advice. Mentors usually have experience in either your industry or job role and can share their knowledge with you.
Hire a Leadership Coach. A coach will provide accountability for your goals, offer encouragement, support and motivation.
Have work/life balance.
Having a balance between your personal and professional life allows you to have healthy relationships at work and at home, improved health, and a reduction in stress. You will be more productive at work, and you will be better equipped to handle stressful situations when they arise.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou
I feel this is one of the best quotes to describe conscious leadership. Conscious leadership does not mean you never feel stress, frustrated or angry. What it means is you take responsibility for your actions and behaviors, and you make a choice every day to be better than the day before. You recognize how your leadership affects you, your team, and the entire organization. Every day you make a choice on how you show up. It may not always be easy, but it will always be worth it. When you are struggling remember the following:
It takes practice.
It takes commitment to want to be better.
It takes patience – with yourself and others.
It takes a desire to want to be an example.
It takes baby steps and not always big leaps.
What is one thing you can do today to start to move towards conscious leadership?
Francine is a mindset coach, healer, spiritual guide and teacher. She is the founder of Forever Changed Coaching. She understands what it takes to be in a relationship with others is to first be in relationship with yourself. Francine left her corporate leadership role in 2019 to inspire others that if they can trust and surrender, they can create whatever they want in their lives. She helps her clients first learn to trust themselves by listening to their inner guidance and helps them apply that to all areas of their lives. She is enthusiastic, fun and loves to connect with amazing women. Francine believes that knowing who you are ‘being’ is much more important than what you are ‘doing’ and when you know who you are, what you do no longer matters.