Leadership entails a lot more than just giving orders to subordinates and managing teams. A leader must be committed, inspire positive change in team members, build and maintain a good work atmosphere, be a good listener, work to first help peers and employees succeed, build and maintain personal relationships with employees, and along with all of this ensure that the organization is productive and profitable.

How does a leader do all of the above and still manage to succeed personally?

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership (2014), explains that leaders have to be conscious leaders. It shows that success need not have a price. Moreover, it need not be at the cost of contentment. It brings forth the concept of conscious and unconscious leadership. To understand how leaders can work towards successful conscious leadership, we need to understand both concepts clearly.

Conscious Leadership

Conscious leadership is actually a state of mind rather than a stage that one should reach. Such leaders accept change and work towards learning from those changes. They know that they have the willpower to adjust as well made additional changes wherever necessary in order to succeed. They are responsive and sensitive to the needs of their team members.

Conscious leaders move from closed to open perspectives, from defensive to curious, and from wanting to be right to wanting to learn. They lead from a place of security and trust, rather than power and authority.

Unconscious Leadership

Such managers are uncomfortable with change. While they too strive for success, it is often at the cost of disregarding valuable suggestions from others. They refuse to do away with old patterns of working even when they are counterproductive. They believe that they are victims of circumstances and place a lot of importance on external factors, believing that these are responsible for their success and failures. 

Unconscious leaders just go with the flow. They employ centuries-old models of leadership and management, believe they have all the right answers, and lead by fear and blame.

The book charts out 15 commitments of conscious leadership. While the word commitment is used, it does not imply promises in the future but focuses on the commitment to the present.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Klemp

The Fifteen Commitments

  1. Responsibility – Responsibility lies at the core of conscious leadership. It means to take full accountability for everything that happens in one’s life – personal or professional. Unlike unconscious leaders, who either play the victim of bad circumstances, placing blame on others or project themselves as heroes by taking on more responsibility than they can handle, conscious leaders understand that they must take full responsibility for their own actions. They understand the consequences of their actions and never shirk responsibility by blaming others for bad decisions and negative outcomes.
  1. Learning – Learning is another value that forms the core of conscious leadership. Unconscious leaders do not learn from their mistakes and focus on blaming others, playing defensive, and proving that their views are correct. They never look at negative consequences as opportunities to learn.

    Conscious leaders, on the other hand, understand that every experience – bad and good – are opportunities to learn. They understand that not all their decisions are going to be proven right. They are realistic about expectations and outcomes and are always eager to learn rather than place blame.
  1. Accepting Emotions – Learning from experiences comes naturally to conscious leaders. They not only learn from their experiences and environment but also learn from their own thoughts and feelings. Unlike unconscious leaders, they do not resist and repress their emotions or recycle emotions by dwelling on them and feeding them with similar negative thoughts. Conscious leaders, on the other hand, look for wisdom in their emotions and thus have high emotional intelligence. They understand that emotions are powerful tools and accept them for what they are.
  1. Listening Skills – Listening skills are assets that conscious leaders exercise at all times. They practice receptive communication, where they listen to what every team member has to say. They measure what they have to say after they have heard other viewpoints. Unconscious leaders often let their own judgments cloud their views and do not consciously listen to others. This can be detrimental as it often leads to prejudices. 
  1. Avoid Gossip – The corporate grapevine is an omnipresent and scarlet feature of the corporate world. It can be useful but at the same time, it can be devastating for the organization as well as individuals, making the work atmosphere toxic. Conscious leaders are aware of the dangers of gossip and know that it is essential to share the truth with the right people at the right time.
  1. Integrity – Integrity is a commitment of conscious leadership that binds all the other commitments. A leader without integrity can poison the entire organization leading to its downfall. Conscious leaders who take responsibility, express their emotions openly, speak honestly, and keep their promises are said to have integrity. They make sure that they do not make commitments that they cannot honor and fulfill all commitments they make honestly.
  1. Appreciation – A leader is made by his team and not the other way round. Conscious leaders know that their words of appreciation hold high value for their employees. When a leader is appreciative of his employees, he helps those employees learn to appreciate themselves. At the same time, appreciation makes the leader view the team member in a better light too. Appreciation, most importantly, helps a leader to be able to better understand team members, value them more, and understand their qualities too.
  1. Zone Of Genius – There are three zones in which people work in, and tend to stay in due to the fact that they subconsciously limit themselves – 
  • The Zone of Incompetence, where one doesn’t enjoy doing a job because they are not good at it.
  • The Zone of Competence, where the one is good at the job that is done but doesn’t find it fulfilling, and,
  • The Zone of Excellence, where one excels at the job done but does not find it fulfilling and hence, does not apply any creativity to do it.

However, there is a fourth zone – The Zone Of Genius – where people love their job so much that it doesn’t feel like work at all! Conscious leaders mostly work in their zone of genius, because they love and enjoy doing the work at hand.

  1. Play. Do Not Struggle – The zones take us to the ninth commitment of conscious leadership – work with a playful attitude rather than doing it as if it is a struggle. Conscious leaders focus on enjoying the work they do. That is why their attitudes toward work are always fun and creative. They know how to integrate fun in their work naturally, making work less of a struggle.
  1. Being Open – No experience or outcome is good or bad. They are simply labels that we attach to events or outcomes due to our perceptions. The tenth commitment of conscious leadership is to be open to other perceptions and interpretations. This gives leaders a different perspective and then they are able to make managerial decisions looking at all possible pros and cons.
  1. Internal Security – People often view security, approval, and control as external factors that they mindlessly chase. However, conscious leaders know that these are internal factors and thus are comfortable and accepting of the security, approval, and control that they already have.
  1. Contentment With The Present – While leaders should have the ambition to grow and succeed, they should also understand and recognize that there is an abundance of everything that they have, including time, money, love, respect, etc. Sadly, many leaders follow the belief that there is a scarcity of everything in life and that they need to hoard it in order to be truly content.  Conscious leaders are cognizant and content with what they already have. This allows them to be happy and live in the moment.
  1. Personal Growth – Sometimes, leaders believe that finding success is a representation of beating the competition. Such leaders view personal growth as the winning moment of the rat race. They do not realize that everyone surrounding them – their competitors, employees, personal relationships, etc. have contributed to their personal growth. Conscious leaders, on the other hand, know that all experiences and people surrounding them contribute to their personal growth and acknowledge their role.
  1. Creating Win-Win Situations – Conscious leaders work towards making sure that everyone wins. They move beyond competition and compromises. They involve everyone in successes and see that everyone involved wins. They aim for creating 2+2=5 results, where the outcome is better than the sum of its parts.
  1. Be The Solution – The final commitment of conscious leadership is to be the solution. Conscious leaders perceive problems in a positive light. For example, they see a problem as an opportunity to better something rather than viewing it as lacking something. They work towards becoming solutions to problems they see.

These fifteen commitments are the guide to becoming a conscious leader. Applying these commitments to oneself will help in leading a more fulfilling life, personally and professionally.