All Articles Leadership Management Are you leading with power or force?

Are you leading with power or force?

How do you manage the toxic forces in your culture, and do you accept accountability for addressing them?

7 min read


Are you leading with power or force?


Nearly 25 years ago, psychologist David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., proposed that human beings operate at different levels of consciousness. He outlined his research in a groundbreaking book called “Power vs Force.”

One can think of the levels of consciousness that Hawkins describes as forms of energy that a person exhibits — either knowingly or unknowingly — energies which, in turn, are perceived by others and often reacted to without the person emitting them being aware of it.

Interestingly, Hawkins argues that levels of consciousness can be scientifically measured. He developed a logarithmic scale to map these energies and calibrated them as consciousness levels that range from 1-1000. Individuals operating at the lower end of the scale (below 200), Hawkins posits, emit energies like guilt, shame, fear, apathy, anger, desire and pride, while people at higher levels of the scale demonstrate courage, acceptance, reason and love. 

Almost a quarter of a century has passed since Hawkins’ revolutionary findings were published, yet little has been done to apply his work to leadership or elucidate the influence leaders acting from high levels of consciousness can have on their teams, their organizations and the larger world. According to Hawkins, inspirational leaders operate in the upper 500s on the scale and “set an example for the rest of society, and in their respective fields, create new paradigms with far-reaching implications for all of (humanity).” 

These leaders act with vision while still remaining keenly aware of their own limitations and areas of needed improvement. They lead from a place of power because they operate at higher levels of consciousness, compared with individuals who achieve results through force by wielding threats, fear or intimidation.

Controversially, Hawkins work suggested that a specialized form of kinesiology can be used to measure where someone or something is positioned on his Map of Consciousness. However, this does not negate the value of the Map itself in examining the energies at play in yourself and the organization. You can better understand how those energies are serving or detracting from business goals and influence the impact the organization has on the larger world.

To build a more conscious organization, the four components most important to explore are:

  1. Your leadership mindset
  2. How you develop others
  3. How you communicate
  4. How you shape and nurture the culture of the organization.

Conscious leadership

Your ability to lead from a place of consciousness depends in large part on the guiding and limiting beliefs that you hold. Those belief systems emanate from your personal level of consciousness, which, in turn influences the consciousness of the organization.

Guiding beliefs are systems of thinking that raise our perspectives and expectations about what is possible. They tend to be beliefs that allow us to feel we will be successful in our endeavors and deservedly so. (E.g., “I’ve worked hard at this project and look forward to seeing a positive outcome.”)

Limiting beliefs, on the other hand, hold us back and those we lead by focusing more on why we might fail than how it is we will succeed. (E.g., “It doesn’t matter what I do, life will always throw me a curveball, making it hard for me to succeed.”)

It’s important to examine whether your fundamental beliefs resonate with higher or lower positions on the Map of Consciousness. If you operate, for example, with a worldview of abundance, where your attitude and actions as a leader foster a mindset in others that resources are to be shared to achieve the ultimate goals of the organization, it is likely that your actions raise the consciousness level of the whole team.

Conversely, adopting a worldview of scarcity sends a powerful message to your team that winning at any cost is the objective. It breeds the very behaviors that create silos, in-fighting, and zero-sum-game thinking. These less-desirable behaviors on a team don’t happen by accident; they are crafted by the consciousness level of the person leading it.

Conscious talent development

Developing others and growing the next generation of leaders is perhaps your most important responsibility. Are you investing in the development of individuals who demonstrate not only technical competence but also a maturity of consciousness? For the organization to operate at high levels of consciousness, attention must be given to the design of development programs, training offerings and experiential assignments to assure that they offer opportunities to grow skills and expand networks, while challenging participants to engage in deep introspection.

The development processes you employ should prompt participants to answer three important questions:

  1. What new skills did I learn through this experience?
  2. What did I learn about our business and its impact?
  3. What did I learn about myself through this process?

Conscious communication

If you are like most people that I know, your inbox is filling throughout the day, your calendar is littered with meetings and calls, and you’re juggling the unexpected drop-in visits from colleagues and team members, emblematic signs of life in a dynamic business environment. Despite this pace, are you taking time to think through the impact you wish to achieve with the messages you send to others, be they verbal, written or non-verbal?

A recent study suggests the average business user received 125.4 emails per day, and the rate of growth in emails received or sent is 3% per year. So, with your inbox alone, you have 125 opportunities daily to communicate consciously, where the messages you send demonstrate authenticity, candor, respect, trust and appreciation. As you reflect on your communications with others over the last week, consider where you would position most of those interactions on Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness.

Foster a conscious culture

A culture is the living ecosystem of the organization. Like the planetary ecosystem that supplies the oxygen we need in order to breathe, organizational cultures built consciously create an atmosphere of nourishing forces like innovation, shared commitment to success, dedication to customers, openness, collaboration, cooperation, acceptance and caring.

As a leader, tolerating less in your ecosystem erodes the quality of the shared environment your employees experience. What are the rules of your ecosystem? What is acceptable behavior relative to how individuals treat one another and external stakeholders? How do you manage the toxic forces in your culture, and do you accept accountability for addressing them?

All leaders manage through cycles of growth and challenge, where operating consciously determines the quality of the outcome. It is at times when things are most difficult, when individuals are most polarized, that the form of leadership being invited to step forward is one of high vibration. Conscious leaders seek solutions in which the aim is about more than winning; it’s about being in service.


Alaina Love is CEO of Purpose Linked Consulting and co-author of “The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results” (McGraw-Hill). She is a recovering HR executive, a global speaker and leadership expert, and passionate about everything having to do with, well … passion. Her passion archetypes are Builder, Transformer and Healer. You can learn more about how to grow leaders, build passionate teams and leverage passion to create great customer outcomes here.

When she’s not working with her Fortune 500 client base, Love is busy writing her next book, “Passionality, The Art and Science of Finding Your Passion and Living Your Bliss,” which explores the alignment of personality, purpose and passion, and the science of how it contributes to our well being. Follow Love on TwitterFacebookYouTube or her blog.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mails for workplace leaders and executive women, among SmartBrief’s more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.