I write a lot about higher self-leadership, the main principles of which can be found in my leadership development model.  When these factors are in place, leaders clearly choose a higher path when leading others.  Here I am discussing how these leaders choose a higher self thought system.  Within the model, the main principles are:

  • Connected to higher self
  • Unity Consciousness
  • Self Awareness
  • Inspiring Others

Leaders who choose a higher path and follow these principles bring a certain quality to the role which no other model achieves for me.  The quality of their leadership is enhanced by choosing a higher self thought system.  Many models (not all) describe the what of leadership or leaders’ skills, qualities or attributes.

For me, higher self-leadership is a way of being that transcends personality, reaction and logic.  Some people call these principles collectively SQ or spiritual intelligence.  However, I don’t particularly believe you have to seek a spiritual path to invoke higher self-leadership.  I think that neuroscience and learning about the capabilities and possibilities the brain can achieve can help anyone to make higher-level choices.  Everyone can do so.

What Do We Mean By Higher Path?

When leaders choose a higher path, it means they are operating from a different paradigm.  It’s not a lofty or egotistical higher path, more it’s a humble and loving pathway.  This path is fundamentally about nurturing growth, fostering well-being, and inspiring positive change. Some people have an innate preference to choose their higher self.  Some people don’t even acknowledge there is one, and others are learning how to choose this path.   Today what I’d like to introduce you to is our thought systems and how we can choose which one to use.

Choosing a higher self-way of thinking

Once we become aware that there is always a different way of thinking or considering information from ourselves and others, then we know we always have a choice.  The truth is that we operate from two fundamental thought systems — one driven by fear and self-preservation, the other by love and growth. Effective leaders learn to identify which system is operating at any given time and consciously choose the latter, fostering a positive and inclusive environment.

The Neuroscience of the Two Thought Systems: Ego and Higher Self

The concept of two thought systems, often referred to as the ego and the higher self, is deeply rooted in psychology and philosophy. However, when we delve into the neuroscience behind these concepts, we begin to understand how these systems manifest in our brain’s functioning and influence our behaviours and decisions. This understanding also sheds light on the ‘choice point,’ the moment when we decide which system to follow.

Ego: The Reactive System

Neural Basis: The ego is often linked to the brain’s amygdala and limbic system, areas responsible for emotional reactions, fear responses, and basic survival instincts. When the ego is in control, these areas are more active, leading to more reactive, self-centred, and protective behaviours.

The ego thought system stems from the limited capacity of separation consciousness.  This consciousness is rooted in a perception of disconnection, where individuals see themselves as distinct and isolated from others and the world around them. In this state, the ego operates based on fear, competition, and scarcity, viewing situations and relationships as zero-sum games. It prioritizes self-preservation and individual gain, often at the expense of collective well-being and empathy

Function: The ego’s primary role is self-preservation. It reacts to perceived threats, whether physical, psychological, or social. This reaction often results in fight, flight, or freeze responses, which are essential for survival but can be limiting in complex social and professional settings.

Higher Self: The Reflective System

Neural Basis: The higher self is associated with the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher-order thinking, including self-awareness, empathy, moral reasoning, and long-term planning.

The higher self emerges from a place of unity consciousness, recognizing the interconnectedness of all beings. It transcends the ego’s narrow focus, embracing a broader perspective that values cooperation, compassion, and abundance. When operating from this higher self, individuals are more likely to engage in behaviours that promote collective growth and harmony, understanding that their well-being is intrinsically linked to the well-being of others. This shift from separation to unity consciousness is central to personal and societal evolution, moving us towards more inclusive, sustainable, and empathetic ways of living. Ultimately this thought system is based on love, universal love, not romantic love.  This can be a somewhat taboo subject when it comes to the workplace.

Function: The higher self allows for more reflective, compassionate, and holistic thinking. It enables us to consider others’ perspectives, understand the broader implications of our actions, and align our behaviours with our deeper values.

The Choice Point: Deciding Between Ego and Higher Self

Whether we like it or not, we always have a choice about which thought system we choose to view people, situations or the decisions we need to make.  Like me, before I learned these different ways of thinking, I was programmed into a world of separation and threat.  It has been a life-long journey to choose something different consciously.   For many people, the ego thought system is the one that is activated first, because that is the most common way the world is perceived.  Here are some factors which demonstrate the choice we do have.

Neural Interaction

The choice point occurs when there is a dynamic interaction between the reactive limbic system (ego) and the reflective prefrontal cortex (higher self). It’s a moment of internal conflict where we decide whether to react instinctively or respond thoughtfully. I’m sure everyone can identify with that rash reaction which has created unwanted consequences, but often it’s simply more subtle.

Factors Influencing the Choice

Several factors can influence this choice, including stress levels, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and the presence of mindfulness or reflective practices in one’s life. High stress and limited emotional intelligence practice tend to favour ego-driven reactions, whereas mindfulness and self-awareness can facilitate higher self-responses.

Developing the Higher Self Thought System

Consistent practices like mindfulness, meditation, and reflective thinking can strengthen the prefrontal cortex’s influence, making it more likely that the higher self will guide our decisions. This development is akin to training a muscle; the more it’s used, the stronger and more automatic it becomes.

Profound Implications

The neuroscience behind the two thought systems of ego and higher self reveals a complex interplay between different brain regions that govern our reactions and responses. Understanding and recognizing the choice point between these systems can empower individuals to make more conscious, reflective decisions, aligning closer with their higher self. This alignment not only benefits personal growth and well-being but also has profound implications for leadership, relationships, and overall life satisfaction.

Examples of choosing higher self thoughts rather than ego-centred thoughts

Here are examples of ego and higher self-thinking in common scenarios.  These are simply for illustrative purposes; our actual responses can be much more nuanced.  However, a simple test to discover if we are making decisions from our higher self or our ego is to ask ourselves, whether our responses derive from fear, or whether they derive from love.

When someone is not performing to the standard required

Ego Response: “This person just can’t keep up, and it’s dragging us all down. They don’t have what it takes. I should probably start looking for someone who can actually meet our standards rather than waste more time and resources here.”

Loving Response: “This team member’s performance might be a cry for help rather than a lack of ability. I’ll initiate a caring and non-judgmental conversation to understand their challenges and feelings. Recognizing their potential and worth, I’ll offer tailored support, such as mentorship, training, or adjusted responsibilities, fostering an environment where they feel valued and empowered to grow.”

When you have to make reductions in staff numbers

Ego Response: “I need to cut down on staff, and it’s going to be messy. But it’s either them or the survival of the company. I can’t afford to think about how this will affect their lives. It’s a tough world, and I have to be tougher to keep this business afloat.”

Loving Response: “Facing the necessity of staff reductions is a deeply painful decision that affects lives. In implementing this, I’ll ensure that every conversation is handled with the utmost respect and sensitivity. I’ll explore all alternatives, like voluntary redundancies or part-time options, and provide comprehensive support, including career transition services, emotional support resources, and possibly extending certain benefits, to ease their transition.”

When someone is having difficulties at home

Ego Response: “Why do I always have to deal with employees who can’t separate personal issues from work? They should handle their home problems at home. This isn’t a charity; we’re here to work, not to deal with personal dramas.”

Loving Response: “Personal struggles inevitably impact professional life. Acknowledging this team member’s difficulties, I’ll offer a compassionate ear and flexible work arrangements. Whether it’s adjusted hours, remote work options, or temporary workload reduction, the aim is to provide them space to navigate their challenges without the added stress of work, affirming that their well-being is a priority.”

When someone is causing trouble at work

Ego Response: “This person is just a troublemaker, always stirring the pot. They’re probably just looking for attention or trying to get under my skin. I need to put them in their place quickly before they start affecting the morale of the whole team.”

Loving Response: “Disruptive behaviour often stems from underlying issues. I’ll approach this individual with empathy and an open mind, seeking to understand their perspective. Through constructive dialogue, I aim to address any grievances they might have and collaboratively work towards a resolution. Implementing conflict resolution strategies and, if necessary, involving a mediator or counsellor, could help restore harmony and understanding within the team.”

When you’re not getting results and there are financial difficulties at work

Ego Response: “Everything’s going wrong, and it seems I’m the only one who cares about the bottom line. Why can’t the team just do their jobs right? Maybe I need to start cracking the whip harder. If we don’t turn these numbers around soon, we’re all going to sink.”

Loving Response: “In facing these financial challenges, maintaining our core values and the trust of our team is paramount. I’ll communicate transparently about our situation, involving the team in brainstorming sessions for innovative solutions. Emphasizing the importance of each member’s role and contribution during this difficult period, we can explore cost-effective strategies and efficiency improvements. It’s crucial to foster a sense of unity and shared purpose, reinforcing the message that we are in this together and each person’s well-being is as important as our financial health.

It’s not always easy to continue to be aware of the choices we are making at the moment, but practising and being aware of our choices can lead us to make the right decisions.

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I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.