Conscious leaders for a redrawn world
If you’ve been keeping your ear to the ground lately, you might have noticed the words – conscious leaders – popping up in all corners of organizations and the coaching practice. We are experiencing trends towards more meaning, more values, whole person work, engagement at work, purpose-led business and leading in a complex world. As a result, the word ‘conscious’ is now being linked to the word ‘business. Even though historically, these words were never spoken together.
This has brought on a plethora of new thoughts about what leadership needs to look like in our complex, connected world – and this teaches us how to coach for this kind of leadership. What we know is that the old styles of leadership are no longer fit for purpose. It follows that command-and-control leadership simply won’t boot up in a world that is so complex and ever-changing that the ‘leader’ no longer has all the answers and where, in any case, the organization is changing and morphing every day so that notions of anyone having the right answer are quickly becoming outdated.
A different kind of leadership
What is needed is a kind of leadership that turns the organization from an oil tanker into a highly attuned sense-and-respond organism; This type of leadership, therefore, taps into the collective intelligence of everyone in the organization, and beyond it. We are living in a world where we see a lot better through everybody’s eyes than anybody’s eyes, where innovation that comes from new kinds of partnerships and reframed notions of competition. As a result, we are led to tapping into our collective human spirit and creating things that benefit all of us. Because of such advances, multiple perspectives, collective intelligence and collaboration are our new indicators of success. These kinds of leaders are needed to lead in this redrawn world are the conscious leaders.
The question is: how do we develop this kind of leadership in our organizations? This is a huge topic and one worthy of many blogs. To simplify it for the purposes of this article, one way to approach it is to look at how coaches can impact the development of conscious leaders. To do so, coaches need a few tools. They need to be interested in this kind of leadership and therefore what it can mean for business and organizations. Additionally, they need to be on some kind of conscious leadership journey themselves and be asking themselves some useful questions in terms of their own development. (We ask our questions as coaches from a certain level of consciousness and it’s useful to be developing this level in ourselves if we are to be helpful to the development of it in others).
They need an easy-to-use model of conscious leadership as a map. To enhance the map they need some powerful questions that they can ask the leaders they are coaching. This article attempts to provide some of these tools for coaches who are interested in coaching conscious leaders.
Coaching Conscious Leaders
In my experience, there are many coaches and consultants out there who are fans of conscious business and conscious leaders. This is in evidence whenever we host an event at The Global Centre for Conscious Leadership or Conscious Capitalism, the coaches usually outnumber the business leaders! I don’t see this as a problem, just a sign that there are many enthusiastic and inspired coaches who are looking to make a difference to the leaders they coach in the business world, and who are interested in this kind of development for themselves.
I recently released a book about conscious leadership and, as part of my research, I interviewed more than twenty conscious business leaders globally. All of these leaders had amazing stories to tell which became great quotes and perspectives on business and on life. These stories naturally turned into provocative questions that can be used for other leaders who are looking to develop as conscious leaders. It also struck me that pulling these together all in one place might be very helpful for coaches the world over as we work to make a positive impact on business, and this can result in a positive impact on society. Even if you’re not coaching a ‘conscious leader’ (who we could think of as someone expressly interested in developing consciousness in themselves in business), some of the questions might be helpful to shift the perspectives of your leadership clients in that general direction.
An Easy-to-use Model (Map) of Conscious Leadership
Conscious leadership is not just mindfulness or authenticity or embodied leadership or systems thinking or adding more leadership content on top of an existing leadership mindset. It seems like its actually taking a good look at our leadership mindset itself – at our assumptions and our worldview – and becoming more self-authoring about this. Therefore, it enables us to live and lead by choice than from our own habits of conditioning. Layered on top of this are a whole range of qualities and characteristics of being and doing that conscious leaders demonstrate. To view a more comprehensive and ever-changing map of what these qualities entail, see the conscious leadership blueprint link at the bottom of this article. However, to simplify this, we can think of conscious leadership in terms of a four-zone model, which is featured in the image at the top of this article.
These four zones include:
- Conscious leaders develop self-awareness and self-mastery in the ‘I’ zone (choice over their egos; wholeness through their values and purpose; greater authenticity; and vertical development or the ability to lead successfully in conditions of great complexity).
- They aim to remain conscious and self-aware in their relationships and interactions – in the ‘We’ zone (including striving to be present with others; listening deeply with their heads, hearts and intuition or gut; being comfortable in devolving power, control and responsibility to others; creating opportunities for collaboration and multiple perspectives to be brought into the mix. Think about how they might establish partnerships across boundaries with previous ‘competitors’ so that they can innovate and create shared benefit).
- Conscious leaders develop deep systems insight in the ‘It’ zone (they have a highly developed awareness of how life is one big interconnection; they have a broad stakeholder view; also they think about how they can create balance and benefit for the wider system, and they take responsibility for the long-term effects of their actions on the system).
- They have a sense of collective responsibility (felt as an inner urge or calling to contribute positively to the areas they believe need attention and reformation, using business or organizational life as a transformational vehicle for doing so).
Powerful Questions for Coaching Conscious Leaders
As a result, several powerful coaching questions naturally arose from my conversations with the conscious leaders I interviewed, which fitted neatly under the four zones of the model. These questions are not intended to be used in their entirety, of course – that would be overwhelming! – but to be cherry-picked according to your needs. In the spirit of abundance, wholeness and making a collective positive impact on the world, feel free to use them, edit them, share them and add to them (there are already some brilliant additions added in here from other coaches) as we work together to create a positive net benefit to the world through our work as coaches.
As conscious leaders –
- What is your definition of success?
- Describe the game, is the game you want to play, bigger than yourself?
- What is the difference you would like to make to the world and others?
- What legacy would you like to leave for the benefit of others?
- How can you catch your ego’s three strategies (being right; looking good; controlling and defending) at play and convert them to more open, inclusive acts?
- What are you resisting right now, in this moment, that you could accept?
- How can you practise and role model curiosity?
- What are the other ‘right answers’?
- Name your top three values that form your roots?
- What does being authentic mean to you? How are you being an authentic leader?
- What brings a genuine sense of joy to your leadership, organization and life?
- Describe the most courageous stands you need to take in your organization? How does this relate to your personal purpose and/or to your organization’s purpose?
- What is your story of the future and how is it provoking insight and invoking action in the present?
- How are you role modelling a more conscious way of being in your organization, every day?
- Is the universe hostile or friendly? If hostile, how can you notice more friendly, supportive cues?
- What level of support are you currently experiencing?
- What do you feel grateful for, right now?
As conscious leaders –
- What’s your relationship to hierarchy?
- Where can you let go of control in your organization and stand in a space of ‘not knowing’?
- What ‘big rules’ can you put in place instead for others to experiment within?
- Describe how are you leveraging collaboration and collective intelligence? From which undiscovered corners of your organization can you seek input?
- How can you create psychological safety for others in your organization?
- How are you amplifying connections, strengths and diversity, and dialling down unhelpful comparisons, judgements and criticisms?
- Are you listening from your head, your heart and your intuition? What does your intuition tell you about your biggest conversation today?
- Describe the context (the bigger purpose) you are holding for your team or your organization?
- What are the qualities of the stories you are telling? How are you encouraging the telling of stories in your organization?
- Are you speaking primarily from the past? The present? The future?
- What is still possible, even though the circumstances look like this today?
- What are the bigger conversations you need to have?
- How are you helping to bring the ‘maker instinct’ alive in your teams and your whole organization? How could you do this to accelerate experimentation and innovation?
- What opportunities for personal transformation are you offering in your organization right now for those who want to take them?
As conscious leaders –
- Who benefits from your purpose? What are the outer reaches of those whom you impact?
- Where would you choose to recast the boundary lines with your competition?
- What opportunities exist to create potential partnerships with your competitors around a common purpose? What does win (you), win (them) and win (society) look like?
- Who do you need to trust?
- How can you create and measure value from innovating with your widest circle of stakeholders?
- Who all benefits when your organization benefits?
- What is the level of responsibility for behaviours in your organization? And for the impact, your organization is having on your stakeholders, the world and the planet?
- What patterns do you see happening in societies of the world which have relevance to your organization? Second, what opportunities can you create? What difference can you make?
- How might you play in the dynamic space between giving shape to your organization and listening in to the shape it wants to take?
- What is your organization telling you right now about the direction it wants to head into in the future? How can you test this out?
- What experimental intention can you set right now, to notice the meaningful coincidences and patterns relating to this?
As conscious leaders –
- How is what you’re creating through your organization adding to the net benefit of humanity? In a decade? Over half a century? In a hundred years? A thousand?
- What are your views on growth? How much is sufficient? What is enough?
- How much responsibility are you taking in the effects of the end-to-end processes in your supply chain? What do you need to speak up about?
- So what do whole systems healthy look like for your organization?
- What are the core indicators of your business that will help to ensure it contributes a net positive effect on life for all?
What question has the most energy for you to begin with right now? And how will you begin?
If you like these questions, please use and share liberally!
View the conscious leadership blueprint here.
Image Source: Becoming a Conscious Leader. I, the author, confirm I have the right to use this image.
Gina Hayden is a Director of Sphere Consulting Services (http://www.sphereconsulting.org), The Global Centre for Conscious Leadership (http://gcfcl.com), the Conscious Capitalism UK Chapter (http://www.consciouscapitalism.org) and The Conscious Leadership Consultancy (http://consciousleadershipconsultancy.com). She is the author of ‘Becoming a Conscious Leader: How to Lead Successfully in a World that’s Waking Up’ (2016; https://becomingaconsciousleader.com).
Gina has been developing organizational talent and leadership for over twenty years. Based in London, she works across the world to bring cutting edge development to leaders, specializing in conscious leadership and the skills needed to lead in a connected and complex world.
Gina is a keen advocate for how business can use its power to create a positive impact in the world. She supports businesses in thinking about how they can operate more consciously and responsibly through incorporating profit with purpose. She is especially interested in developing leaders who are fit for the future and new leadership models.
She works with a variety of clients from a range of sectors across the world, including the United Kingdom, USA, South Africa, the Middle East, Central Africa and Europe. She has a Masters degree in Psychology and is an internationally qualified facilitator and coach.