Gina Hayden is the author of “Becoming a Conscious Leader”. Having worked with several global consultancies and organizations, such as PwC and AT.Kearney, Gina recognized the need for a change in the way we lead to become more conscious and authentic.
Q1: Why is there a need for conscious leadership?
For many leaders today, success is all about striving to achieve. This becomes most apparent in business, where the dominant business narrative forces people to focus only on returns or on shareholder value, splitting off other parts of themselves, like their purpose or their values. People become disconnected from themselves, from what makes them happy and fulfilled. We chase our tails for success, but ultimately it becomes empty. The question becomes, how can we run profitable businesses and be fully human? A first step is to consider self-mastery. From the perspective of our egos, we are conditioned to follow specific patterns and beliefs, and we follow these unconsciously. This narrows our band of choice, because everything must align with our story about ourselves. It limits our freedom of choice: in fact, we could say, no awareness = no choice, but if we have more awareness or are more conscious, we can have more freedom to choose our responses. Leaders who are more conscious of their patterns have more choice in how they lead, in how they steer their businesses. In today’s world, where we are seeing shifts to stakeholder-centricity not just shareholder value, where meaning, purpose, engagement of Millennials and inclusion of values and diversity is rising, conscious leaders have a less limited perspective and can use business as a force for greater good.
Q2: How does a leader become more conscious?
There are many places to start, but a good first step is to develop your authentic leadership, meaning looking at your history and how this informs who you are today, doing an exercise to determine your values (your roots) and looking at what your purpose might be over and above your individual success or making money for or through your company. What is the purpose beyond your commercial success, and what else is your profitability serving? Becoming more aware of the systems within which we operate is also a good step. For example, how is your business connected to and impacting the larger system of which you are part – your employees, suppliers, customers, society, environment, planet, not only your shareholders or directors? Asking searching questions about what your business is for, and therefore what your leadership is ultimately serving, is an essential question for conscious leaders. There are global programmes that can help you get started, like the Conscious Leadership Forum coming in 2018, which aims to connect conscious leaders around the globe and support their development and the pressures they experience in the mainstream business world. Concretely, there are ten qualities that can help every leader to develop their authenticity in service of being a conscious leader:
- Awareness of our personal strengths
- Awareness of our personal weaknesses
- Knowing our values
- Emotional management and self-mastery
- Empathy, compassion and emotional intelligence
- Courage to act for what is right (taking a stand in the world)
- Acting with integrity and building trust
- Being genuine, congruent and consistent
- Knowing your life story and how it informs you
- Willingness to be open with others
Self-mastery, as it is described above, is an important first step towards developing as a conscious leader. Alongside this, managing your relationships consciously, eliminating fear and encouraging collaboration draws on the diversity of perspectives and collective intelligence in your company that helps you compete better in the marketplace. Thinking in systems and considering how the contribution you are making as a leader and as a company is having a positive impact in the outside world, is also a useful skill to develop. We need conscious leaders, at every level in the organisation, not just at the top, to keep pace with the changing expectations in the world (for example social impact), with change and innovation as the new norm, and with the upcoming generation.