ATD Blog

5 Qualities of a Conscious Leader

Monday, May 18, 2015

As younger generations enter the workforce, we are witnessing a rapid transformation in how businesses are lead and develop around the world. Increasingly, employees are rejecting the “command and control” management approach. Instead, they are gravitating toward what I call “conscious leaders” who inspire others to be their best self and create a positive work environment. 

Beyond having a well-defined purpose, conscious leaders exhibit five strong qualities that help them inspire, motivate, and influence their teams. 

#1: Self-Awareness 

Richard Branson is considered one of the most notable conscious leaders in the world today. Branson considers self-awareness one of the “best assets” for today’s entrepreneur, and credits this quality with his ability:

  • to keep his business ventures aligned to his values
  • to persevere in implementing new ideas
  • to figure out what to do next. 

In my work, I have found that self-awareness is a prerequisite to becoming a conscious leader. Practicing self-awareness begins with gaining clarity of the underlying thoughts, emotions, and feelings that compel us to behave in a certain way. In turn, these attitudes and behaviors produce the results or the reality with which we live. 
Because conscious leaders are highly self-aware, they tend to choose thoughts that produce positive emotions, feelings, behaviors, and results for themselves. Also, because they exude a great deal of positive energy, the attitudes of conscious leaders also tend to be contagious—compelling others to be positive and strive toward greatness. 

#2: Win–Win 

The story of Dan Price recently took social media by storm. Price, who is the CEO of a Seattle-based company, took a significant cut in pay from $1 million to $70,000 to give a salary increase to 70 of his employees—and some saw their salary double as a result. 

Essentially, leaders that seek win-win outcomes believe that either everyone wins or no one wins. The old attitude of “I win, you lose” is losing ground on a global scale to this more powerful and highly conscious paradigm. The new approach to leadership is one of compassion and empathy, instead of “cut-throat” tactics.  

In fact, an increasing number of global leaders are choosing to be conscious and make decisions from a place of win-win. For instance, Price’s gesture was described as an “investment” because “workers motivated by higher salaries will ultimately attract more business and handle clients better.” 


#3: Everything Is a Learning Opportunity 

Conscious leaders choose not to be judgmental; abiding standards and guiding principles is different from being judgmental. Principles and standards enable organizations to enhance their ability to live in alignment with values. Judgment, on the other hand, puts labels on everything and produces a limited view of ourselves, others, and the world. Consequently, judgment limits creativity and innovation. However, conscious leaders view events as “learning opportunities” that compel employees to think differently, try new things, and continue to “experiment” until they attain maximum performance. 

The founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, described this sentiment succinctly when he said, “If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness.” Rather than looking at Amazon’s “experiments” as bad investments, wrong ideas, or failing ventures, Bezos kept a non-judgmental attitude that looked at business experiments as learning opportunities to increase sales by figuring out how to better meet his customers’ needs. 

More importantly, conscious leaders hold the attitude of non-judgment in all facets of their professional and personal lives. 

#4: Reconciling Differences 

The quality of reconciling differences is not only limited to conscious leadership in multicultural workplaces, but also applies to teams with very divergent viewpoints. Conscious leaders are aware of differences, honor them, and ultimately focus on shared values and universal principles that drive all of us toward success. These leaders amplify individual strengths and combine them to propel people forward and to produce powerful and positive outcomes for everyone involved. Today’s leaders can learn many lessons about conscious leaders from what seems like the distant past. 

Consider the famous speech, “Tryst with Destiny,” made by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, at the dawn of his country’s independence from the British. Nehru urged the citizens of his country to overcome “communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.” More than six decades later, the Indian nation is united and strong, despite its richly diverse communities of citizens. 


#5: Wisdom 

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” This quote by Albert Einstein is a perfect reminder that wisdom is a balancing act between one’s hunches and the hard evidence. 

Conscious leaders tend to equally value their intuitive abilities and the facts and figures presented to them. There seems to be an aversion to going with one’s hunches in the workplace. However, this is becoming an old and outdated paradigm that is slowly losing ground to a newer paradigm that promotes the enhancement of one’s intuitive abilities, either through mindfulness or specialized training programs. 

Leading Forward 

As a professional leadership coach, I have found that if we are not capitalizing on these qualities already, our filters are holding us back. We are all conditioned, since our early childhood, to develop filters through which we see the world and ourselves. These filters are comprised of our beliefs, values, experiences, thoughts, and emotions. 

Conscious leaders have a clear understanding of their filters. More importantly, they know how to release anything in their filters that could hinder them from bringing about greatness in themselves and others. 

How ready are you to get clear on your filters and unleash your potential as a conscious leader? 

About the Author

Joelle Jackson is a certified international life and leadership coach and a small business owner at Plus 1 Consulting. If you are ready to liberate your performance from the status quo, make sure to contact Joelle at [email protected] or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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