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The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership



Conscious leadership is inside-out, meaning it is driven by internal personal commitments where actions are aligned with core values. In other words, it's about personal integrity, being your best self with as much intention and self-awareness as possible.


The first step is seeing clearly where our behaviour is out of alignment with how we would prefer to show up. That takes a deep level of self-honesty and humility. We have to be willing to look within and not like what we find. The process of revealing biases and blindspots is inherently humbling and often unsettling. It's common to consciously and unconsciously avoid discomfort, fear, uncertainty and vulnerability. It's important to decouple fault from responsibility and distinguish between judgment and discernment as we engage in this work.


“Burned-out, stressed-out, and frazzled leaders foster organizations that experience high turnover, low employee engagement, steep healthcare costs, and dysfunctional teams that often work against one another. The current models of leadership require organizations to motivate their people largely with fear and extrinsic rewards. Though no one argues that these forms of motivation can produce short-term results, they are usually accompanied by distrust and cynicism in the workplace, which have long-term negative consequences.” - Jim Dethmer

The shift from "to me" to "by me" level of consciousness is an empowering one. We stop making excuses, defending our limitations and externalizing the problem. In subtle ways, victim level consciousness persists because it's much easier to explain why we can't do something. It's easier to disempower ourselves with blame, criticism or complaining than take responsibility.


Coinciding this shift from things happening "to me" to results created "by me" is Robert Kegan's work on adult development and deliberately developmental organizations. According to Robert , becoming an adult isn’t about learning new things (adding things to the ‘container’ of the mind), it’s about transformation - changing the way we know and understand the world (changing the actual form of our ‘container’). He describes 5 stages of adult development, stages 3, 4 and 5 being the most notable:


Stage 3 - Socialized Mind (58% of the adult population)

This is "to me" victim-level consciousness. Much of what we feel, think and believe is dependent upon how we think other people experience us. We are driven to prove ourselves, seek external validation and focus on people-pleasing as our default mode of relating. Even though we might seem confident on the outside we're often insecure on the inside afraid of disappointing or upsetting others


Stage 4 - Self-Authoring Mind (35% of the adult population)

This is "by me" creator-level consciousness where we take responsibility for both creating and solving our personal problems. We realize that we are not defined by others but rather can define our life on our terms. We begin to align our actions with our personal core values and learn to communicate healthy boundaries.


Stage 5 - Self-Transforming Mind (1% of the adult population)

We recognize that we are interconnected and interdependent, both affecting our environment and being affected by. We are not attached to our ideas, nor do we find our identity through them.


“We often describe unconscious leaders as reactive. They react from a “story” about the past or an imagined future, and their personality, ego, or mind takes over.” - Jim Dethmer

Conscious leaders call out the story they're making up knowing that they have a choice to believe in their thinking or not. They realize that their true power comes from self-awareness - noticing the contents of their mind and creating distance between subject and object. This shift from subject "I am my thinking", to "I have thoughts" cultivates spacious awareness, that empowers us with greater choice and shifts us from reaction to intentional response.


"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning)

In the book 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp distinguish between "to me" and "by me" commitments. Here are the "by me" trust-based commitments that shift us from fear-based to trust-based leadership:


1) Responsibility

I commit to taking full responsibility for the circumstances of my life, and my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. I commit to support others to take full responsibility for their lives.


2) Curiosity

I commit to growing in self-awareness. I commit to regarding every interaction as an opportunity to learn. I commit to curiosity as a path to rapid learning.


3) Feelings

I commit to feeling my feelings all the way through to completion. They come, and I locate them in my body then move, breathe and vocalize them so they release all the way through.


4) Candor

I commit to saying what is true for me. I commit to being a person to whom others can express themselves with candor.


5) Gossip

I commit to ending gossip, talking directly to people with whom I have an issue or concern, and encouraging others to talk directly to people with whom they have an issue or concern.


6) Integrity

I commit to the masterful practice of integrity, including acknowledging all authentic feelings, expressing the unarguable truth and keeping my agreements.


7) Appreciation

I commit to living in appreciation, fully opening to both receiving and giving appreciation.


8) Genius

I commit to expressing my full magnificence, and to supporting and inspiring others to fully express their creativity and live in their zone of genius.


9) Play

I commit to creating a life of play, improvisation, and laughter. I commit to seeing all of life unfold easefully and effortlessly. I commit to maximizing my energy by honoring rest, renewal and rhythm.


10) Opposite of my Story

I commit to seeing that the opposite of my story is as true or truer than my original story. I recognize that I interpret the world around me and give my stories meaning.


11) Approval

I commit to being the source of my security, control and approval.


12) Enough

I commit to experiencing that I have enough of everything... including time, money, love, energy, space, resources, etc.


13) Allies

I commit to seeing all people and circumstances as allies that are perfectly suited to help me learn the most important things for my growth.


14) Win for All

I commit to creating win for all solutions (win for me, win for the other person, win for the organization, and win for the whole) for whatever issues, problems, concerns, or opportunities life gives me.


15) Being the Resolution

I commit to being the resolution or solution that is needed: seeing what is missing in the world as an invitation to become that which is required.


It's useful to distinguish between leading above the line as conscious leadership and below the line as unconscious leadership as a means of developing self-awareness:


Above the Line

  • How did I create this situation?

  • What can I learn from this situation?

  • How is the opposite perspective equally true?


Below the Line

  • Where do I feel limited?

  • When do I blame others?

  • When do I make excuses?


Pause for Reflection

  • What one commitment will you focus on this week and why?

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