How Do We Create Conscious Leaders?
Whether it be politicians, business leaders, consultants or coaches, the piece that is always missing for me in the discussion around transforming leadership to create more long-term, sustainable businesses is an understanding of how do we actually get there. It is all very well painting a magnificent picture of an idealised future if we cannot spell out a thoughtful and accessible way of reaching it.
It is an issue that I have been reflecting on for a few years now. It first came into focus for me during the course of some client work. The client in question had begun to transform many of his beliefs and attitudes about what made for effective leadership. I have witnessed time and time again how the healing of what I call a ‘dysfunctional ego’ allows an individual leader to begin to let go of many of their long-term, fear-based patterns of leading. This is what had happened for this particular client. He had reached the critical tipping point.
One day, he summarise the problem succinctly; “Sarah, I used to think that leadership was all about me and how I could get people do what I needed them to do, but that’s not it, is it? It’s actually all about them”. It was a magical moment of insight. However, what followed was another very pertinent but penetrating question. “So if that is the case, how do I lead in a different way? How do I make that transformation?”
It also turned out to be a turning point for me in my understanding of the critical milestones required in the development of a Conscious Leader. I now think along the lines of a four step model that at its heart moves a leader from an ‘ego full’ toward an ever more ‘ego less’ way of being in leadership. Essentially, this requires that we pay attention to any dysfunctional ego-based behaviours which are driving our performance. These may evolve around themes such as; procrastination, playing the victim, seeking to control, manipulation, bullying or avoidance.
To heal the ego – which is our first priority – we need to pay attention to the ‘Three Pillars of Confidence’; self-worth self trust and self acceptance. The work begins by building these foundations. As we do, a more healthy and balanced ego emerges and with it, the willingness to begin to embrace one’s weaknesses as well as one’s strengths. With a continued focus and attention on building the strength of these Three Pillars – which form the foundation of Conscious Leadership – we are eventually and spontaneously more able to let go of our fear-based behaviours; we fundamentally begin to feel at home in our own skin and prepared to show a vulnerability which far from being a weakness, becomes our strength.
At this point, I have noticed the natural inclination for emergent Conscious Leaders to focus their attention ever more acutely on meeting the needs of their followers rather than their own ego-based needs. Very often at this stage, we see the emergence of two key characteristic traits; leadership based in service and the emergence of humility. Humility has already been characterised by the likes of Jim Collins (of ‘Good to Great’ fame) as being a key factor in great leadership. Yet humility cannot be manufactured; it arises in the absence of ego. Thus, it is not something that we can strive for, but something that others will see as we flourish in our leadership capability.
I believe that as a shift in thinking continues to occur – as exemplified by the recent and emergent political agenda here in the UK – we will need to be able to define how we take those leaders who are willing to embrace a different way of leading on their development journey. Just painting the picture will no longer cut the mustard.
If you wish to find out more about The Parallax Partnership’s four step model of Conscious Leadership a new book, “Egoless: The Final Frontier in Leadership” will be published towards the end of this year. Please subscribe to this blog to remain informed of publishing dates.