Book Summary — The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership
A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success
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1 paragraph summary:
Conscious leadership is binary. It’s about a commitment to curiosity, learning, integrity, feelings and responsibility. The book flips the view that leadership is about “practices” and puts the emphasis on living your best life through conscious energy management.
Culture is the secret sauce — or lethal bacteria — of all teams.
A simple black line is the best model for conscious leadership. It’s a binary model — you either lead consciously or you don’t.
ABOVE — Open curious committed to learning
BELOW — Closed defensive committed to being right
We suggest that the first mark of conscious leaders is self-awareness and the ability to tell themselves the truth.
What’s wrong with being right?
For most leaders, survival is a matter of protecting the ego or identity or image. And the ego firmly believes that if it is not “right”, it will not survive.
Knowing when you are below the line is more important than being below the line.
“Where are we talking and listening from right now: above or below the line?”
Conscious leaders experience what is here now and respond in the moment. They are not trapped in old patterns. They are free to lead and serve others, their organisation, the world and themselves.
Most people live life largely unconsciously in the habitual trance of their personality, their regret and anger about the past, and their hope, fear, and greed about the future.
4 Leadership Stages
- To Me —”victim consciousnes” — being below the line, the cause of my condition is outside me, external factors are responsible for how we feel, someone is to blame >>> move to #2 by taking responsibility
- By Me — “consciously creating with”, at the cause of their own experience, everything is unfolding perfectly for your learning and development, nothing has to be different
- Through Me — notice something beyond yourself, “me” is not important, how does everything relate to me. “what is life’s idea that manifests itself through me?”
- As Me — 1. oneness, the experience that there is no separation, 2. absence of personal “me”, no personal center
1. Taking Radical Responsibility
ABOVE — commit to taking full responsibility for my life and supporting others to take full responsibility
BELOW — commit to blaming others and myself for what’s wrong in the world. I commit to being a victim, villain or hero and taking more or less than 100% of the responsibility.
Blame, shame and guilt all come from the same source: TOXIC FEAR.
Heroes hate conflict, pain and tension and seek to temporarily relieve their discomfort without really dealing with the issue. They habitually over function and take more than their share of responsibility. In fact, heroes in many ors are promoted, compensated, and enshrined as examples of “what it takes” to get the job done. Yet we believe that heroing is a primary form of unconscious leadership. It is toxic because it leads to burn out, supports others in taking less than their full responsibility (being victims), and rewards behaviors that ultimately lead to individual and team breakdown.
Leaders typically use five levels of motivation:
- Toxic fear — blame, shame and guilt
- Extrinsic motivation — money, title, perks
- Intrinsic motivation — learning, fulfilling purpose and autonomy
- Play, creativity, and expressing our genius in the world
- How can we keep this from happening? INSTEAD How to fix?
- What can we learn from this? INSTEAD Who is to blame?
All drama in leadership and life is caused by the need to be right. Letting go of that need is a radical shift all great leaders make.
Commit to end blame and criticism and create a culture to value learning over being right and taking 100% responsibility.
2. Learning Through Curiosity
ABOVE — commit to growing self-awareness, every interaction is a learning opportunity and curiosity as a path of rapid learning.
BELOW — being right, defensive, espec when I’m certain I’m right.
Four competencies trump all others as the greatest predictors of sustained success:
- Learning agility
The issue isn’t about “being right”, but rather “wanting to be right” and “fighting to be right” and “proving we are right”.
Conscious leaders know they are right and don’t need to defend this law as though their identity or ego depended on it.
What we want when we “are right” is not “being right” but validation and appreciation for being right. This attachment is all about the ego.
Conscious leaders regularly interrupt natural reactivity. That means they take a moment to pause, breathe and ask themselves: “Where am I — above or below the line?”
3. Feeling All Feelings
ABOVE — commit to feeling my feelings all the way to completion. They come, and I locate them in my body, then move, breathe and vocalise them so they release all the way through.
BELOW — commit to resisting, judging and apologising for my feelings. I repress, avoid, and withhold them.
Emotion is “e-motion”. Energy in motion. At its simplest level, emotion is energy moving in and on the body. Or said another way, feelings are physical sensensations.
Whenever you experience an emotion you feel a sensation in your body. Anger has a certain set of sensations, as does sadness and fear. Your feelings are these sensations — there is no difference.
If an emotion is merely energy, or a sensation, moving in the body, then it is neither good nor bad, nor right or wrong — it just is.
Simple core feelings — angry, sad, joyful or sexual.
Check in on your feelings and verbalise it — “I feel…” >> if it’s followed by “that” or “like” you are expressing a thought, not describing a feeling.
For example, fear often manifests as a sensation in the belly (like butterflies in the stomach), whereas as anger appears in the back, shoulders, neck and jaw, as well as down the arms to the hands. We typically experience sadness as a sensation in the heart area, the front of the throat and face, and in the eyes. Joy is often experienced as a rising, effervescent sensation in the core of the body or up the spine, and sexual feelings are typically experienced as tingling sensations in the erogenous zones.
Feelings are supposed to be released. In fact, they release themselves naturally and spontaneously if we don’t prevent it. Human bodies naturally release. We take in a breath and let it go. We take in food and water and expel them. Unfortunately, we have been trained to keep emotions from doing the same.
Repression is a typical response to most emotion. If you look back at your childhood, you’ll undoubtedly recall messages you received that emotions, especially some emotions, were not acceptable.
The five emotion flow through body as water does through a hose. If you kink the hose, water stops flowing or slows to a trickle. Similarly, if you kink your emotional “hose”, all emotions are affected. Many people would like to block anger but still feel joy, or they’d like to limit sadness but still have sexual feelings. This is very difficult to do.
- Locate the emotion and describe its nature
- Allow, accept and appreciate the sensation
- Match experience with emotion — if this had a sound what would it be? The body releases naturally when you vocalise to let it move to match energy. By vocalisation, we don’t mean “talk about it”, because that usually leads to recycling. Rather, we just mean make sound.
Babies cry, dogs growl, and cats hiss. They don’t hold on to feelings. They let them go.
4. Speaking Candidly
ABOVE — commit to saying what is true for me + being the person to whom others can express themselves with candor.
BELOW — commit to withhold my truth (facts, feelings, things I can imagine) and speaking in a way that allows me to try to manipulate an outcome. I commit to not listening to the other person.
Candor is one of the great antidotes to boredom. If couples learn to reveal rather than to conceal, boredom is rarely an issue in a relationship.
One mark of a healthy culture is employee engagement, and in our experience, engagement and candor are directly correlated. When we block candor by withholding, engagement wanes as well.
We encourage a practice of revealing judgements. They key is that we reveal our judgements so that we can make ourselves known. We don’t reveal our judgments to be RIGHT or to change the other person. In other words, when I reveal my thoughts and feelings I’m telling you about me, not about you.
I notice that I had the judgement that you treated me disrespectfully in yesterday’s meeting when you interrupted me. My desire is simply to let you know the judgement arose. I don’t need to be RIGHT about it and I know this is really about me. I wanted to reveal myself so that you know me and so that we have the possibility of a connected relationship. I don’t want to withdraw.
Initially, we suggest that you practice this kind of candor — reveal, connect, own.
If you’re trying to change the other person by using any of the skills taught in this book, you’re still below the line and will create drama. Remember, candor is about you revealing to learn about yourself and to build the potential for relational connectedness.
Candor calls for revealing what is “unarguable”.
5. Eliminating Gossip
ABOVE — commit to ending gossip, talking directly to people with whom I have a concern, and encouraging others to talk directly to people with whom they have an issue or concern.
BELOW — commit to saying things about people that I would not or will not say to them. I commit to talking about people in ways I wouldn’t if they were in the room. I commit to listening to others when they gossip.
- People won’t tell truth to one another
- Don’t know how to release negative emotion
- It takes too long to thoughtfully process info and feelings
6. Practicing Integrity
ABOVE — commit to the masterful practice of integrity incl acknowledging all authentic feelings, expressing the unarguable truth, keeping my agreements and taking 100% responsibility
BELOW — commit to living in incompletion, withholding truth, not keeping agreements and not taking on responsibility
We want to look at integrity not so much as doing the right thing or conforming to a moral or ethical code but rather as facilitating the flow of energy.
Integrity means wholeness. The word integrity shares the same root as the word integer, a whole number.
A combination of three elements: energy management, congruence and alignment.
- Energy Management — what gives and takes energy?
- Congruence — matching what is on the inside to what’s on the outside
- Alignment — purpose and direction, this can change and doesn’t have to be grandiose but it must be clear and compelling
Four pillars of integrity:
- Take 100% responsibility
- Speak authentically
- Feel feelings through to completion
- Impeccable agreements
There is no such thing as a small breach of integrity.
Commitment — between you and the universe.
Agreement — made between two people.
It’s all about:
- Making clear agreements
- Keeping agreements
- Renegotiating agreements (usually less than 10%)
- Cleaning up broken agreements (state it and ask what can be done)
7. Generating Appreciation
ABOVE — commit to living in appreciation, fully opening to both receiving and giving apprecation.
BELOW — commit to feeling entitled to “what’s mine”, resenting when it’s not acknowledged in the way I want
It is often a slippery slope from wanting to deserving. When we feel entitled, we are stuck in a “To Me” attitude, and the victim, villaine and hero roles come into play.
- Sensitive awareness — simply paying attention, specificity becomes a delight
- An increase in value — “appreciation” — experiences and relationships become more valuable
Fully receive appreciation yourself. Often leaders deflect appreciation, usually unconsciously.
- Inner critic interception — internal dismission, that’s not really true
- Hand-off — “it wasn’t really me”, it was the other person
- Downgrade — comparison to another ideal so not “quite there yet”
- Dismissal — diminish the quality or action as unnoteworthy
- Reciprocation Race — I appreciate you for X
Refusing appreciation robs the other person of a chance to give you their gift. You cheat both of you out of an experience of growth and connection. And usually you deny a truth about yourself.
What you seek, you will find >> train yourself to notice the good.
Four elements of masterful appreciation:
- Sincerity — real and true
- Unarguable true
- Succinct language
8. Excelling in your Zone of Genius
ABOVE — commit to expressing my full self and supporting and inspiring others to fully express their creativity
BELOW — commit to holding myself back and not realising my full potential and living in zones of competence, and even excellence
There are 4 zones:
- Zone of Incompetence — don’t enjoy, don’t do well
- Zone of Comptence — don’t enjoy, do ok (but others with passion better)
- Zone of Excellence — costs you energy, you’re exceptionally good
- Zone of Genius — do what you love, uniquely gifted to do
9. Living a Life of Play and Rest
ABOVE — commit to creating a life of play, improvisation, and laughter. Commit to seeing all of life unfold easfully, and effortlessly. I commit to maximising my energy by honoring rest, renewal, and rhythm.
BELOW — commit to seeing my life as serious, it required hard work, effort and struggle. I see play and rest as distractions from effectiveness and efficiency.
Play is self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.
Conscious — laughter that invites others in and doesn’t exclude or cause division.
There are 8 dominant styles of play personalities:
- Joker — silly sounds or jokes
- Kinesthete — athlete, dancer, push your body
- Explorer — delight in new experiences
- Competitor — competitive games and fighting for #1
- Director — planning and executing scenes and events
- Collector — wants to have the best collection of something
- Artist/Creator — joy from making things
- Storyteller — imagination is the key, dance
Energy management is more important that time or money management.
10. Exploring the Opposite
ABOVE — commit to seeing that the opposite of my story is as true or truer than my original story. Recognise that I interpret the world around me and give my stories meaning.
BELOW — commit to believing my stories and the meaning I give them as truth.
Whenever we don’t allow reality to be what it is, we are in opposition to life. This opposition is the cause of all suffering.
For example, when we don’t allow the field team to communicate as it does, we find ourselves agitated, wanting to change the way that team is acting. This agitation and our desire to change what is so, is a form of suffering.
It is actually not the issue that causes the pain but your interpretation of it. Life doesn’t come with labels. It just comes. We give life the labels. And the label that we give life determines how we experience it.
Conscious leaders take responsibility for being the labeler of life. They learn to question all of the labels.
Wanting to be right is the compulsion of the ego. In fact, the ego believes that unless it is right, it cannot survive. So the mind is addicted to believing that there is a way to be.
I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.
Find our own truth:
- Is it true?
- Can you be absolutely certain it’s true?
- How do you react when you believe the thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
The idea is to see that the opposite of your story is at least as true as, if not truer than, your original thought.
11. Sourcing Approval, Control and Security
ABOVE — commit to being the source of my approval, control and security
BELOW — commit to living from the belief that my approval, control and security come from the outside — from people, circumstances, and conditions
Humans have three core wants: approval, control and security.
As soon as we want something, anything, it implies that we don’t have it. Wanted comes from a belief in lack. Wanting says that I don’t have it and I need to go outside of myself to get it. This belief in lack can be found at the root of all suffering and the cause of all seeking.
What if you already have it?
Those who believe they lack move in the world of fear and those who believe they are already whole, perfect, and complete, lacking nothing, move in the world from love and creativity.
When life happens, bodies and hearts break. Pain in life is not optional, but suffering is. As long as we keep seeking and wanting something we believe we don’t have we suffer.
12. Having Enough of Everything
ABOVE — commit to experiencing that I have enough of everything… incl time, money, love, energy, space and resources…
BELOW — commit to scarcity mentality, get more and preserve what is mine
- challenge beliefs of scarcity
- do breathing work
- notice space
13. Experiencing the World as an Ally
ABOVE — commit to seeing all people and experiences as allies suited for growth
BELOW — commit to seeing people and circumstances as obstacles
Other people don’t even have to consciously commit to being your ally. If you are committed to experiencing them that way, they are always instrumental to your growth.
14. Creating Win for All Solutions
ABOVE — commit to creating win for everyone solutions
BELOW — commit to seeing life as zero-sum game
15. Being the Resolution
ABOVE — commit to being the solution that is needed
BELOW — commit to apathy, resentment and blaming