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Three Ways to Develop Conscious Leaders

Conscious Leader photo 2
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 leadersUnfortunately, there’s not enough of them.     

If you have never experienced an unconscious leader, consider yourself fortunateI’ve witnessed many throughout my career. These are leaders who aren’t aware of themselves, their behaviours, and how they impact othersThey have the title, but don’t understand the role of the leader or how to be one. 

I’ve also worked for highly 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.  

And that’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:  

  1. 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.   
  2. The reluctant leaderThis leader feels they would rather be doing the work rather than dealing with people. They typically don’t build relationships, have few critical conversations, and tend to ignore problems at all costsThey just wish people would figure things out for themselves and leave them alone.  They are ineffective and spend their time on the sidelines.   
  3. The aimless leaderThe 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’t been 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 requires intention, time and resources.  

Here are three ways to get started.    

  • Train and develop your leaders: Leadership is a lifelong journey that is constantly being re-invented and re-shaped. You only need reflect on 2020 to appreciate how leaders have had to quickly adapt and learnfrom managing from a distance and leading through change and uncertainty, to understanding how to build resilient teamsdeepen 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 to invest 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 setbackfailurehard lesson or accomplishment provides an opportunity learn, grow, and advance along the road to selfmastery. 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 Heenco-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 for developing peopleWe’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 peopleunlock their potential and deliver results. Indeed, it is a leaders 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 you weren’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 for developing 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 to start the conversation.  

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