Choose to Be a Conscious Change Leader

How you can have huge impacts by embracing values of conscious leadership.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

A large part of my work has been the evaluation of the impact of organizations on their communities. Through the results I gathered early on in my career, I learned I would need to hone in on what leaders were doing in their organizations to understand why these organizations had the level of impact they did (or why some went into oblivion).

The ones that have the greatest impacts — meaning they mushroomed in size, services and clients; they contributed to the revision of policies and laws related to those they were serving; or their staff and clients developed in capacity to sprout new organizations and/or contribute to a more inclusive, egalitarian and democratic culture (measured through their influence relayed through clients/recipients and government and collaborating institutions) — are led by leaders who are conscious. Specifically, they are conscious change leaders.

One leader who opened branches of hospitals and orphanages serving thousands started off with just one orphanage. As his work was growing exponentially, he explained to me one important factor to all his work and impact: teaching democratic principles, specifically through caring and through inclusion. In other words, values guided his mission, goals and how he lived. He told me all about his goals and methods before this incident.

I was spending the day in one of his orphanages run by an intimidatingly powerful woman. She was a go-getter, a strong personality and one to reckon with — qualities of a leader that get things done in the face of obstacles. Her staff shuttered when she walked by. She was also wary of my being present yet another day. I knew this was uncomfortable for her. I was hanging out at this location, participating and asking questions, and I was pretty much planted there in her view.

The owner and director of all these projects also paid a visit, and I soon learned of one reason for all the thickness in the air. I was in earshot of their conversation. He discovered she had just refused a huge donation from a competitor. And as the conversation went on, she got a mini lesson on how she would have to consider swallowing her ego, the merit of making amends and how to graciously accept the funds. I was impressed to hear the part on the principle of inclusion as a mission of the organization.

This is the key quality that made this director successful. He had the mental capacity to operate with conscious awareness to lead transformation by awakening consciousness … and doing the right thing. Conscious change leaders choose to practice being change and lead that practice. They see their values and principles as actionable, they are aware of their conditioned perceptions and those of the people they lead, and the impacts of their collectively changed behaviors.

The donor had no ability to create real power concerns or cause any conflict of interest. In fact, the donor was evidently a conscious leader for offering donation to perceived competitors. To collaborate with the donor would be a step in the direction of inclusivity, creating allies, in fact becoming a greater force to being more effective in serving those that need the help. These are impacts on several levels. But choosing to be a conscious leader has many more outcomes and impacts.

  1. You’ll Learn the Art of Daring

The art of daring is knowing when to take risks and when not to. Conscious leaders become perceptive to what’s going on inside of them and use their values as their barometer — even if the outcome has great uncertainty. Unconscious leaders often don’t take the risks they need to and recognize opportunities because their cues are virtually all external. Especially as our world becomes more chaotic — if it weren’t already enough! — leadership will require individuals to take cues from something beyond the chaotic and unpredictable environment. Essentially, this will be an inner-most guidance.

2. You’ll Learn the Power of Trust

Why I wonder this donor came to this organization and not another? There are many possible reasons. But one likely one is trust that the organization would support the end goal of the donor, which is being of service to a higher goal— people in life-threatening situations, orphans, for example. This donor likely recognized that the director is driven by an inner compass to having impacts that are not about the individual companies and organizations. You’ll have people coming from all sorts of places, including places you would never imagine to support your goals and initiatives, because they trust you and have faith in your capacities and vision.

Now think about your staff and participants. When bias is removed, they will know not to approach you for personal favours. They will know that despite differences that often simply do exist nonetheless, you will listen to their feedback, concerns, ideas and aspirations. You will achieve open lines of communication that go a long way for healthy teams and organizations. You will learn of potential issues long before they actually manifest. Bright ideas won’t be kept in people’s heads and hearts to die that might be the next big thing for your organization, all because whether it’s wacky, way out there, or whatever, it will get heard.

3. You’ll Learn the Strength of Accountability

As you dare your way through the forrest, people will learn to trust you not just because you’ll be willing to illustrate what taking healthy risks looks like in the face of obstacles. It’s that together with when you mess up, and you lead taking 100 per cent responsibility. And here’s the thing — unconscious leaders are quick to throw off responsibility and blame someone else. That’s cowardice and cowards don’t really have the trust that is required of leaders when things become dicy — and in having big impacts, things will become dicy. People want to know that you will not blame them for what happens, and you’ll be way more effective in having your tribe cover your back and support you all the way.

4. You’ll Witness How Being Accountable Begets Being Accountable

Being accountable is teaching others how to also take full responsibility for choices and actions. The practice of being accountable helps others to dare to take healthy risks with you and then be open to discussion, ask for help and feedback along the way. People learn that it’s ok not to be perfect and in being open about it they are open to the constant feedback loop that creates a healthy and strong team. The outcome is not really a bunch more mistakes. It may seem counter-intuitive, but from being so open to possibilities and being fully responsible, really the outcome is of greater successes and impacts.

5. In Short, You’ll Have Multiple Impacts

Being a conscious leader does not facilitate one outcome. It manifests a snowball effect. Conscious leaders are aware of their just being and practicing consciousness from the inside out will have impacts they cannot necessarily calculate because the impacts become exponential. This director had several organizations where he brought in people not only to serve but to teach others. One program was having university students commit to a year at a time to being an older brother or sister to an orphan where they would do activities together.

The learning? In addition to the manager’s (hopeful) transformation, the university students told me how much joy their participation in the program brought to their personal lives. Meaning. Purpose. Awareness of what really goes on in this world. A big one for them was their shifts in world views. Sense of responsibility. Sense of brother or sisterhood with others. Sharing. Being accountable. Leading by example. Compassion. Caring. Love. They discovered how much love they could feel, give, and receive. And this is just one program and a focus on the students. What are some of the students doing later when they graduate? That’s another emergent piece — they are living, being, seeing, acting, and loving in this world through whatever it is they do on a more abundant and conscious level.