Conscious: Aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings.
Unconscious: Without awareness, sensation, or cognition. Occurring below the level of conscious thought.
Conscious leaders are strong leaders, building effective productive teams and positive cultures. They contribute to employee retention, loyalty and happiness. They drive results that impact the bottom line, and they build future leaders. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of them.
If you have never experienced an unconscious leader, consider yourself fortunate. I’vewitnessed many throughout my career.These are leaders who aren’t aware of themselves, their behaviours, and how they impact others. Theyhave the title, but don’t understand the role of the leaderor how to be one.
I’ve also worked forhighly conscious and successful leaders who were strong role models, willing to share their experience to help me learn and grow, and caring enough to give me direct feedback to help me improve.
Andthat’s how I know the difference between the two. It’s a lived experience.
Some unconscious leaders are more obvious than others. Here are three types we can encounter:
The obnoxious leader: The leader that yells and demeans others, is inconsistent, rarely connects with their reports, and sees people as getting in their way or slowing them down. They are controlling, always right,and take a ‘my way or the highway’ stance. They are feared and lead by intimidation and scarcity.
The reluctant leader: This leader feelsthey would rather be doing the work rather than dealing with people. They typicallydon’t build relationships, have few critical conversations, and tend to ignore problems at all costs. They just wish people would figure things out for themselves and leave them alone. They are ineffective and spend their time on the sidelines.
The aimless leader: The leader who doesn’t know what a leader does but because they have the leadership title, they can’t admit they don’t know. They want to be liked as a leader, so they make friends, play favorites, don’t address challenging issues, avoid making tough decisions, and live in a world of artificial harmony. They aren’t respected.
If you have had leaders in your career that fall into one or more of these categories, you know the toll it takes on your motivation, growth, learning and mental health.
While we need to take responsibility for our behaviours and our learning, somewhere along the line these unconscious leaders have been done a huge disservice. They haven’tbeen set up for success because they haven’t been taught how to be a leader. They are often put in leadership roles without training, accountability, or good role modelling. They may not have been given the direct and caring feedback they so desperately needed.
Too many companies believe the leadership title makes the leader. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leadership is simply hard work and it requires specific skills and ongoing learning. Helping people become effective, impactful conscious leaders requiresintention, time and resources.
Here arethreeways to get started.
Train and develop your leaders: Leadership is a life–long journey that is constantly being re-invented and re-shaped. You only need reflect on 2020 to appreciate how leaders have had toquickly adapt and learn; from managing from a distance and leading through change and uncertainty,to understanding how to build resilientteams, deepen relationships and show up with compassion. If you want strong leaders,you need to equip them with the awareness and skills to lead. And if you are a leader, you also need toinvest in your own development. There are countless brilliant books, podcasts, webinars, articles, studies and access to leadership resources.
How are you equipping your leaders to lead through the change and uncertainty of COVID?
As a leader, what is one small commitment you can make toward intentional leadership learning?
Embrace feedback as learning:Every setback, failure, hard lesson or accomplishmentprovides an opportunity learn, grow, and advance along the road to self–mastery. We all have blind spots. If someone doesn’t know where they are falling short or how they are negatively impacting a team, they can’t change their behaviour. We need to be more courageous about having feedback conversations, both positive and negative. It helps leaders learn from their mistakes, build on their strengths and become better leaders. And if you are a leader, you need to seek out feedback and be open to it because that’s how we learn and become more aware. I love the line from Sheila Heen, co-author of the book Thanks for the Feedback,“Not sure what to work on as a leader? Know who does? Everyone else!”
How often do you appreciate and/or recognize good leadership when you see it happening?
How often do you seek honest and direct feedback from your colleagues?
Hold leaders accountable fordeveloping people: We’ve heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” What if leaders were measured by their capability to develop people?The role of the leader is to influence, inspire and develop people, unlock their potential and deliver results. Indeed, it is a leader’s role to develop future leaders by coaching them to find their own solutions and be self-sufficient, rather than creating followers who do what they are told. I worked with a company that viewed leading people as a privilege. If you didn’t have people skills or leadership inclination, rather than make you a reluctant leader, you would be put on a technical growth path. And if youweren’t doing a great job of leading, and all the training, coaching and conversations weren’t helping you move into this space,your leadership responsibilities were revoked.
What would change for your organization if you held leaders accountable fordeveloping people?
What are ways you can measure growth and development of others?
Are you ready to start your journey to become a more conscious and effective leader? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.
Catherine Ducharme / About Author
Catherine Ducharme is Co-Founder of Fluency Leadership.