Believing that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think is a complete cop-out. The truth is that you are absolutely responsible for what you think because only at this level can you exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. And what you think is constantly creating your reality.
As the Conscious Leader of your own life, it is important for you to accept that you are a powerful being. Your physical body serves as your own intimate example of the impeccable design of life. The intricate and miraculous organisation of your cells, bones, and organs, illustrates a vast network of cooperation that mirrors back to you the primary nature of existence. By design, you are a fine achievement: a unique organic computer that is fully capable of consciously experiencing the different levels of your own reality, as well as many others.
Humanity is just beginning to discover the multitude of capabilities inherent within the human form. For millennia, limiting beliefs about our lack of personal power have been accepted as facts. This was made manifest through focusing our power of attention on these beliefs. Beliefs are agreements about reality, and they set the stage for what you encounter. Your state of awareness then determines how you respond to the dramas of life you have created. You have the free will to choose what you will, and what you sow will be yours to harvest. For this very reason, it pays to be conscious of your thoughts, your words and your deeds.
“We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
― Carl Sagan
One of the consequences of the global plandemic was a re-evaluation of how we approach many things, including leadership. As organisations search for ways to inspire the best in their people, leveraging the power of Conscious Leadership can support a human-centric, high-performing organisation to excel. The key is to embrace uncertainty as a fact, rather than to push it off as a menace. Nothing in the entire history of existence is fixed and guaranteed; everything in life and business is dynamic. Typically, leaders practice uncertainty-curbing techniques such as strategic planning, cost optimisation, and risk-reduction planning, Unfortunately, amid heightened global uncertainty, what has worked in the past is now undeniably insufficient.
More often than not, opportunity is disguised as loss. No matter what you think you have to do, there is always an option available for harmonious resolution. Conscious Leaders are keenly atune to the messages around them so they can maintain energy and balance. They demonstrate moderation by tempering their workload and they regularly practice letting go of what they need to leave behind. When you blame circumstances outside yourself, you miss the wave of awareness because you are really attracting the situation. Whenever you make excuses, you advertise to everyone that you are not in the game. The nature of existence is friendly and significant and, as a designer of reality, choose to regularly ask yourself why you design what you do. Seize the moment and pay close attention to how you use your thoughts and words to create your outer environment. Do you really mean what you say? Do you know what you are saying? This level of awareness is essential for all Conscious Leaders to grasp.
“Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy the beauty of becoming.
When nothing is certain, anything is possible”
4 Focus Areas to Navigate Uncertainty
Now is the time for executives to serve their people, shareholders, and communities by applying four elements of Conscious Leadership for navigating crises and reducing uncertainty:
#1 What We Know
People are normally energised by a vision of success and what they can do to get there. In today’s fast-paced environment, it is much harder to articulate a clear vision. This means we must start with what is at our core. We must draw on the energy of purpose and the guidance of values. We can think of it this way: purpose is why we do what we do, and values are how we work towards the purpose. Values connect the head with the heart (caring), and purpose connects the head with the feet (doing). Yes, the future is uncertain, but your purpose and values are clear guides for decisions, choices and relationships.
#2 Collective Genius
“I alone will fix this,” are the famous last words of a leader on the path to failure. All leadership breakdowns begin with ego myopia, a nearsighted vision based on self-delusion. Ego-myopic leaders are convinced of their genius and superior ideas. They don’t solicit opinions and inputs and curtail meaningful collaboration. Conscious leaders know that adaptability to new circumstances depends on diversity of thought, approach and perspective, centred on collective purpose and values. The collective genius includes the CEO along with a group of intelligent team members who share the same purpose and values. By asking questions and respecting the opinions of others, conscious leaders gather creative solutions and plans.
As a climber ascends higher up a mountain, their uncertainty grows and strides shorten. We take smaller steps as we move through business uncertainty. Smaller steps mean we can try something new and learn from it quickly. We extend from what we know to what we need to learn through experimentation. Try a new approach or offering and, if it doesn’t work, adjust and adapt that offering in the next iteration. Experiment in increments of 30 or 60 days. In times of uncertainty, we must shorten the planning horizon.
Speed is the currency of racing during typical times of business. However, reflection is the currency of uncertainty in post-plandemic times of business. Reflecting requires that we intentionally and courageously slow down, look backward and side-to-side. There is a solution to every problem if we approach it from ways in which we can learn. Affirm that solutions exist if we open ourselves to them. Reflection brings awareness to the present moment and makes us conscious of patterns and lessons. Reflection turns action into learning.
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
The Rare Leadership Skill Few Possess
Intellectual humility is a mindset that guides our intellectual conduct. In particular, it involves recognising and acknowledging our intellectual limitations in the service of pursuing deeper knowledge, truth, and understanding. This kind of mindset helps us to avoid headstrong decisions and erroneous opinions. It also allows us to engage more constructively with each other. Intellectual humility speaks to your willingness to reconsider your views, to avoid defensiveness when challenged, and to moderate your own need to appear “right.” It is sensitive to opposing evidence, realistic in outlook, and strives for accuracy. It acknowledges and controls the thinker’s own biases. It is true scientific thinking.
Conscious leaders display intellectual humility to overcome self-centred responses to evidence. This mindset encourages us to seek out and evaluate ideas and information in such a way that we are less influenced by our own motives and more oriented toward the discovery of truth. When we discuss important, controversial issues with others, our initial responses to their arguments tend to be shaped by our preferences, identities, and beliefs. Intellectual humility buffers against those responses, so that we can discover what is right, rather than be right.
“Life is like a restaurant; you can have anything you want as long
as you are willing to pay the price.”
The Learning Menu
Being a conscious leader in these unsettling times means maintaining perspective – trusting that you’ll be OK, focusing on human connection and having the presence of mind to learn from this experience. If self-examination is the appetiser, learning is the main course. No matter what you are currently learning, it is the basis for change, improvement and success – not just to get through the current situation, but to create a new and better future.
There are basically two kinds of learning situations. One is being presented with new information, new skills or new awareness – a bit like school. The second kind of learning is gained through experience, living life, and testing boundaries and limits – the school of hard knocks. The challenge we all have with experiential learning is that before we get to the lesson, we have to deal with disappointments, judgments from ourselves and others, rejection, mistakes, and even punishment. If we get caught up in the emotional (and sometimes physical) pain associated with the school of hard knocks, and cannot gain a broader perspective, we may never get to the learning. Conscious Leaders are master learners. They focus on learning from mistakes rather than deflecting, blaming others or hiding from them.
“Most of us must learn to love people and use things rather than loving things and using people.”
4 Traps That Prevent Us From Learning
You say you want to learn, but do you really? You might say you are committed to growth but you get caught in your own stumbling blocks: emotions, mindset or behavioural patterns. You might go to workshops, read books and gain advice from others, but you may not seem to change your work habits, communication or life for the better. You are caught in your own trap.
‘I can do this myself.’
In school, we were taught to complete assignments alone, take tests without cheating and prove our individual knowledge of the material. While individual knowledge is important, school does not prepare our children for life or business; it prepares them for University. In relationships, teamwork and diversity of input are required for success in business – bringing individual expertise together for shared success. If you maintain the viewpoint that you have to prove your value to the organisation, demonstrate how smart you are or simply maintain control, you are trapping yourself in a game of make-believe. A fantasyland that says you know what you don’t know and that you can do alone what, in reality, you cannot.
‘It’s not the way we do things around here.’
There is comfort in familiarity. People caught in this trap cling to their current reality and feel threatened by change and new approaches. Sometimes it’s the fear of failure, and often times, it’s simply not wanting to make the effort to learn something new. In order to learn, you must be willing to acknowledge that you don’t know everything and that there might be a better way. In times of uncertainty, it’s tempting to rely on old solutions but you cannot expect what you’ve always done to keep working if the game has changed.
‘It wasn’t invented here.’
This trap occurs when you don’t want to accept an idea coming from someone else, especially a direct report. You want to have all the good ideas and take credit for all positive movement forward. If you want to learn, you must become aware of your limitations and your strengths as they relate to the problem at hand. This could be as simple as the awareness that you get anxious or defensive when your boss checks in on you, or that your direct report is good at coming up with new and creative solutions to old problems.
‘Prove it to me.’
Some people will not try anything new, or even accept the validity of a new approach, if it can’t be proven. Proof is helpful, but it’s not the only way to make decisions. When anything is new, by definition, we have less firm data to give us peace of mind. Experience and intuition are essential components of decision-making. If you only try what has been proven to work, you will never create anything new – ever. Learning involves taking measured risks and stepping outside the comfort zone of the mind.
To get out of these traps, you must be willing to learn. You must have the openness and courage to know that you don’t know everything and to give space to inevitable uncertainty. Conscious leaders experience sustained success because they are ready for anything. Their focus is on being ready for change and improvement rather than hunkering down into sustained normalcy and comfort. Life is short – don’t be lazy. The world constantly reinvents itself, so you must stay in constant learning mode. There is always a next evolutionary step.
“A Star is always a Star no matter what stage they are on or where they are at”
Rise of the Corporate Athlete
If you were to ask a professional athlete, you’d find the kind of stress we have all been under for the past few years is nothing new for them. The sports industry has been actively prioritising mental wellness for decades. There is a lot we can learn from sports psychology to build resilience – and who doesn’t love a good sports analogy?
Professional athletes deal with a lot of pressure. Their work is on display in front of millions of people and money is won or lost on their success or failure. When you fail as a professional athlete, the world is there to remind you – in no uncertain terms. Mental toughness is a prerequisite for every professional athlete. Mental toughness is resilience and mental flexibility. It’s adaptability, the ability to listen and be humble, to show empathy whenever it’s needed. It’s self-compassion and recognising the limits of your knowledge and your circle of competency. This is true strength – not pretending to know it all or acting like you don’t care about others. Mental toughness does not mean being stoic. It actually means being flexible, and open to feeling, rather than shutting feeling off.
Top job candidates around the world are looking for companies that prioritise well-being. Only 15% of workers feel completely heard by their organisation, so starting a dialogue is key. The current state of the world has only magnified all of that. Leaders need to find ways to take care of their teams. Mental health benefits are becoming an organisation’s most competitive office perk in the 21st century. Encouraging wellbeing on the team can be as easy as reframing competition in the workplace. From the Latin competere, which means “to meet or come together”. The original meaning of competition wasn’t putting you against me, it meant to strive together. The reason world records are broken is that the person you are competing with is bringing out the best in you, even if it’s your old self. If you’re the leader of a team you must cultivate unity and harmony in the group. You don’t want competition to tear your team apart, but to bring them all together.
What is your relationship like with failure? Many cultures promote ‘failure is not an option’, when in fact, failure is a great learning resource. If not succeeding at something rocks your identity, you will be tempted to only try things you know you will succeed at – retreating back into your comfort zone. If losing the next match is the difference between being ranked #1 or #10, an athlete knows that resting on their laurels and playing it safe will only ensure they become #10. Think about the failures have you overcome up to this point. Perhaps there are some you would rather not go through again. In this light, have those failures made you a better person? Failures make you stronger, smarter, wiser – just better – when you reframe them as an opportunity to learn.
Some people think being optimistic or resilient is about always being in a good mood, or finding the silver lining in every situation. Fake positivity can actually be a trap. It’s not reasonable to expect yourself to never be knocked down. When a boxer steps into the ring, he knows his opponent wants to knock him out. Optimism can be as much about having a strong defence as having a one punch KO. Resilience is really about getting back up. Optimism is about knowing that you can get up, not pretending that you’ll never get knocked down. It’s about dealing with the blows as they land.
“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”
Professional Pit Stop
Taking care of our mental wellness at work can be likened to a pit stop in Formula 1 motor racing. In under 10 seconds, the pit crew will change all the tires, fill the petrol tank, and adjust the car as needed. As corporate athletes, this is a great analogy to describe the little stops we can take to exercise our optimism muscle throughout the day. To maintain high performance, we must build little pit stops into our day: time to read, time to nap, time to meditate, time to go outside and walk in nature. Are you using your pit stops? Are you tapping into daily things that will help you balance your energy levels and reconnect you to your purpose?
New research shows that people with intellectual humility are better learners and collaborators because they don’t disregard opposing viewpoints, rather they intentionally search them out. Teams comprised of people committed to incorporating alternative perspectives into their discussions are much more productive than teams comprised of members firmly entrenched in their own views. Diverse thinking not only opens the door for new ideas, it also enables people to better identify costly potential pitfalls and flaws. Leaders who exhibit low intellectual humility aren’t open to new ideas and may even become defensive or hostile when their ideas are challenged. This not only dilutes the quality of ideas, but it sends a very strong message to team members about their value and ability to contribute.
“This new day has greeted us with no rules; unconditional opportunity. Do not dilute the power of this new day with the hardship of yesterday. Greet this day the way it has greeted you; with open arms and endless possibility.”
Lazlo Bock, former senior VP of People Operations at Google, claims it was one of the most important qualities he looked for in a candidate. According to Bock, people with no sense of intellectual humility are incapable of learning. “The most successful people are those who argue like hell and are zealots about their point of view, but when a new fact emerges are able to admit that the situation has changed – and they’re not right.” Countless psychologists agree with Bock, and a growing number of HR executives are incorporating intellectual humility into their requisite qualifications for new hires. Having the ability to see the world through another’s lens doesn’t mean you don’t have convictions. It means that you are open to new people, new ideas, new perspectives, and new experiences – leading to new solutions. It also means you understand the limitations of your own thinking.
Use some of your pit stops and the power of your mind to explore the possibilities of your dreams with loving curiosity. We have a tendency to judge our dreams. We are so deeply conditioned to doubt any idea that isn’t accompanied by a detailed “instruction manual”. When we don’t know “how” to make something in our lives come true by virtue of our sheer effort, we often discount it. We label it as “impossible” and often put the dream away in a box somewhere in the far recesses of our mind. It is one thing to know it cognitively and quite another to really check in with yourself on the impact of your dreams (or your judgement of your dreams) on your life. It takes time to dream – literally. We need time to allow ourselves to simply stare off into space and contemplate and play with our imagination. But we are not very good at “sitting idle” in our lives. If we have a spare minute, we reach for our phones, scroll through social media, or check email. We have become strangely uncomfortable with creating space in our lives to simply dream… and think.
“When you open your mind, you open new doors to new possibilities for yourself and new opportunities to help others.”
If we don’t take that Pit Stop and make the time to really allow ourselves to swim in the sea of potential, we are shutting down vital pathways to discovering the solutions to the challenges currently facing humanity. Our dreams are essential parts of growing and expanding who we are and what we want to co-create in the world. Without dreams we stagnate and our lives become “meh”. Or worse…we become slave to someone else’s dream. We are seduced by someone else’s purpose and direction and we get lost in living a dream that isn’t ours to fulfill.
We can’t dream when we’re in a state of “fight or flight”. Stress causes the body to produce cortisol which shuts down the dream centre of the brain. If we’re going to find solutions to the challenges facing humanity today, we must take better care of ourselves, decrease the stress in our lives and tap into higher states of joy and expansion. Choose to find fun ways to tap into your creative essence. Do something “utterly mindless” like going for a walk, hanging out with a puppy or a baby, play with paints or your kid’s toys, write poetry, or take a nice long soak in the bathtub. These are all things that can help lower your cortisol, increase your dopamine and help you to dream. Conscious Leaders work in alignment with radical change to experience exciting results. With intellectual humility, we embrace uncertainty so we can truly be free and thrive in co-creation with the Divine. Those inspired to become courageous risk-takers are choosing to Ignite the Flame of Conscious Leadership and become the true Phoenix Leaders the world needs at this time. Are you ready to take the leap that will change your world? Together we rise!
“You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness.”