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Becoming a conscious leader

3 min read


Human social organizations are created and guided by leaders — people who see a path and inspire others to travel along it with them. Leaders set the tone, direction and culture for their companies.

A “Conscious Leader” is someone who leads with “Conscious Awareness,” which is a process of recognizing what is going on inside and out, the effects of decisions and actions, and the interaction between a complex array of factors and forces. It is seeing our seeing, observing our thoughts and recognizing our feelings and their effects.

Conscious leadership is one of the four core tenets of “Conscious Capitalism” (along with higher purpose, a stakeholder orientation and conscious culture). Conscious leaders embrace the higher purpose of their business and focus on creating value for and harmonizing the interests of the company’s stakeholders. They recognize the integral role of culture and purposefully cultivate conscious culture that fosters ongoing learning, growth and development of their team members.

My friend Casey Sheahan, CEO of Patagonia, observes that “the prospering companies of tomorrow will lead with mindfulness and compassion,” which are hallmarks of conscious awareness. All of the business leaders I know and respect have deep personal practices to cultivate conscious awareness. To build a conscious business requires conscious leadership.

Becoming a “Conscious Leader”

So how do you become a conscious leader? Here are a few tips:

  • Cultivate conscious awareness: There are many good, effective practices for doing so. With the right teachers and attitude, mindfulness meditation, yoga, martial arts and many other movement practices cultivate conscious awareness. Reflection is a powerful tool for doing so, as well. You can reflect in any moment, and you can set specific times for reflection, such as the end of the day, week or month. Reflection can be in thought or in writing. And sharing reflections with others can deepen the process by virtue of the sharing and through their feedback.
  • Articulate and embrace your company’s purpose: By articulating your company’s deeper purpose, you establish a powerful compass for orienting yourself and others and for driving decisions. Purpose generates meaning and energy, which foster engagement.
  • Serve others: Recognize that your business is an ecosystem of stakeholders and find ways to create value for all of your stakeholders, so the ecosystem flourishes. And within your team, recognize that you have multiple roles — including setting direction through holding up the purpose, serving and supporting team members, and inspiring them to continually stretch and grow.
  • Find support for yourself: Take care of yourself, and find peers and teachers to support you in your ongoing development as a person and a leader. Being conscious is an ongoing process!

Jeff Klein is author of “It’s Just Good Business: The Emergence of Conscious Capitalism & the Practice of Working for Good” — a concise introduction to conscious capitalism designed to be read in under 30 minutes. He is a trustee and executive team member of Conscious Capitalism Inc. and producer of the conference Conscious Capitalism 2013 and the 2013 Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit. Klein has also written the award-winning book “Working for Good : Making a Difference While Making a Living” and hosts a weekly radio program called “It’s Just Good Business” on en*theos radio. He is on Facebook and Twitter.