In working with Conscious Leaders, I discovered that there are really 3 conditions that leaders need to adopt in their workplaces to create the right environments for engaged and collaborative workplaces, environments in which happiness can occur and innovation can flourish. I was thrilled recently when Lorna Davis, global ambassador of B Corp, told me recently that she uses these three conditions as a sort of mental reminder to her in her own leadership, which she had taken directly from my book on the conscious leadership.
We’ve all been in meetings where someone with power cuts us down just as we’re making our well-thought-through contribution. When this happens, it causes us to shrink back from offering more of our views – and with that, the group or team loses the benefit of our contribution. Now imagine this happening across the whole of a team. It’s a recipe for a nodding, yes-man meeting that lacks liveliness, engagement and fresh ideas.
As leaders, it’s essential that we actively welcome the diversity of views. This doesn’t just mean making sure we’re bringing diversity to the table in the form of gender or race or technical specialisms. It means actively allowing these diverse views to be heard – welcoming them in.
Your ripple effect as a leader is widespread. If you as the leader are in reaction, in fear or control, this will have an emotionally contagious effect on others. You will create an environment of fear, people will be afraid to fail, and this leads to a lack of sharing of ideas and of innovation.
The fix? Ensuring that you as a leader take an abundant, open-minded and flexible mindset, and that you welcome in diverse viewpoints in all their forms. A good rule of thumb is to remember that things tend to diverge before they converge. It’s going to get messy before it comes together in patterns. Getting comfortable with living in the mess and the ambiguity really helps, as does trusting that the patterns will emerge.
I once interviewed a highly conscious leader, Bob Fishman, former founder and CEO of RHD. He posed two really insightful questions: Are you, as a leader, more valuable than others? And, do you really think that you, as a leader, can predict the future? I find these questions invaluable in reminding us that, as leaders, we don’t really have all the answers, and we need to gather the collective intelligence from all corners of the organisation if we are to wisely move ahead, and sense and respond our way into the complex future of our organisations.
What’s that about, you ask? This is all about using the power of purpose to align your people towards an outcome that they all care about. A higher purpose unifies us and gives us leverage to see that we’re all pulling together in the same direction. Diversity without a higher purpose is just conflicting opinions.
Simon Sinek became famous for introducing us to his notion of the ‘golden circle’ and the power of why. The ‘what’ and the ‘how’ doesn’t come close to the power of the ‘why’. Being clear on why our efforts matter, and the impact this has on something greater than ourselves, creates a tremendously positive pull towards action.
The leader’s role, therefore, is to create powerful contexts. You can do this by looking at the highest good in the system: what leverage are you creating for a positive effect beyond the organisation’s walls? Make many links: between people’s values and the values of the organisation; between what people are inspired by and what they are doing; between what they love to do and why it matters in the world beyond.
This is especially true for the upcoming generations, for whom:
This means that, as leaders, your role is to create the context and hold the space by taking a stand for your organisation’s purpose, connecting with many others for their views, listening inwardly and outwardly to what is looking to happen next (i.e. sense and respond), and holding the line when there is pushback against purpose from stakeholders in other corners of your organisations, or outside of it.
This is about adopting a beginner’s mind. A large part of what makes it possible to live on the edge of our evolutionary state as human beings is to remain in a state of perpetual and profound openness and receptivity to what is changing around us. This means living in the question, rather than becoming firmly entrenched in the answer (or what we think it is).
All the conscious leaders I have interviewed and worked with have described themselves as having this same quality: they are very curious. They invite many perspectives to speak out. Staying curious is about staying open to changing your mind, avoiding getting caught up in right/wrong, black/white thinking, and pushing your dualistic point of view. It’s about recognising that your view is just a view, and not becoming too attached to it.
One of my favourite conscious leaders is Tom Chi, co-founder of GoogleX and creator of GoogleGlass. He told me that as a leader: “There is no blame or failure – only learning. The only question we ask is what did we learn and how does it change what we do now?”
How liberating! Imagine the innovation that could take place in your organisation if everyone could bring their collective intelligence to bear in finding solutions to challenging problems because they were unafraid of being belittled or shamed by making a ‘mistake’?
Leading in this way, consciously, requires us to be firmly in command of our egos. It’s about knowing that our egos are the tools we use (and that use us) that help us feel safe by:
These three conditions requires us, as leaders, to catch ourselves in the acts of our own ego, and choosing a different way of going about our act of leadership in that moment, one that is more open, inclusive, collective and – ultimately – intelligent.
To learn more about Gina and her wonderful work on Conscious Leadership, find her here on the Conscious Directory.