Conscious leaders seek to make a positive impact on the world through their organization. They embed a sense of shared purpose and thus enable people to derive meaning from their work. They help people grow and evolve as individuals and as leaders in their own right. They make tough moral choices with clarity and consistency. Leadership in the third millennium must be based on the power of purpose, love, caring and compassion. Conscious leadership is fully human leadership; integrating masculine and feminine, the heart and the mind. It integrates Western systems and efficiency with Eastern wisdom and effectiveness. When businesses are led by individuals who are driven by service to people and the firm’s higher purpose – who lead through developing and inspiring others – it leads to peace and happiness in the individual, respect and solidarity in the community, and mission of accomplishment in the organization (Fred Kofman).
Definition of success in conscious capitalism: Making a positive difference
Conscious leaders understand that instead of narrow definition of success as ‘the attainment of wealth, posit or honours’, success is about making a lasting, positive impact on the world. They have a passion for making the world a better in some significant way. They shoulder responsibility not to maintain the status quo, but to make a positive difference. They want to alleviate human suffering and help others flourish. Effective leaders do not have to force people to do things: they inspire and motivate others to commit to change voluntarily.
Embed a shared purpose
Conscious leaders continually engage their colleagues around questions of identity and purpose. They build organizations whose higher purpose becomes engrained into the DNA. This is most effectively done through story telling. People are able to effect real change only when their emotions are engaged. Stories are the most powerful way of engaging with people at an emotional level; they can cause people to think, feel and behave differently. John Gardner has found that effective leaders tell three types of stories: “Who I am”, “Who we are”, and “Where we are going”
Help people evolve and grow
The human journey should be continuous growth and personal development. In addition to personal life, work provides a great opportunity for growth. Conscious leaders treat all people with respect, regardless of their rank or role. They appreciate the unique talents and gifts of each individual and play to a person’s strengths, thus putting the individual in a position to succeed and contribute to the organization. “Business grows because people grow the business and people grow in the business”
Make tough moral choices
Leaders are often confronted with dilemmas in which they have to choose between courses of action that may each be right from certain perspectives. Joseph Badaracco, Harvard professor of business ethics, says that the real test of leadership comes when the choice is between right and right. In such cases, conscious leaders act in accordance with the company’s purpose and its core values to make choices that result in the most long-term value for all of the stakeholders.
For example, a tough moral choice Whole Foods faces is simultaneous commitment to sell a full selection of animal foods, and the commitment to improve health and longevity of their customers, as well as their desire to improve animal welfare. Reasearch has shown that the consumption of animal foods beyond 10% of total calories correlates closely with increases in obesity, heat disease, stroke and cancer. Whole Foods wants to simultaneously satisfy, delight and nourish their customers while also help them to be as healthy as possible. Thus, the company has made a conscious effort to solve this by first, educating their customers about the importance of eating primarily minimally processed and unrefined plant foods. Second, they continually work to upgrade the quality and welfare of the animal foods they do sell. They believe that their dual strategy of educating customers about the value of eating primarily minimally processed and unrefined plant foods, combined with improving the healthiness of the animal foods that they do sell, is a win-win approach.
Danger of charismatic leadership
Charismatic leaders tend to create organizations that are heavily dependent on them; as soon as they leave, things begin to fall apart. Conscious leaders, by contrast, seek to sense and serve the organization’s collective spirit. They lead by example, focusing on building great organizations that endure over time. All leaders, but especially highly charismatic ones, are susceptible to the trap of narcissism. The best way to fight this is to have trusted advisers such as coaches, colleagues, and friends who have an independent perspective and can give leaders straight truth they need to hear.