The Coordinates of A Conscious Leader

In exploring what a Conscious Leader leading in a Conscious Business pursuing Conscious Capitalism actually means, the views are ever-evolving and building on one another to form a clearer picture that will light the way for leaders drawn to pursuing this path.

This paper describes a perspective on where a Conscious Leader lies in comparison to a traditional leader, aimed at making the territory clearer.  (.pdf available for download here).

Conscious Leadership can be viewed along two axes:

X – axis: The axis of DOING, comprised of what the leader focuses on every day, how far his* worldview extends.

Y – axis: The axis of BEING, comprising who the leader is being in his role.  Being determines mindset, behaviour and way of interacting with others.

These two axes INTERSECT at the point of PROFIT.  Without profit, the business cannot exist.

The dotted red line denotes the traditional field of focus for leaders in a capitalist system: a focus on PROFIT and the SHAREHOLDERS to the business as being of primary importance.  All other stakeholders are secondary.

The extent of the leader’s ‘field of effect’ if governed by his EGO or IDENTITY.  Ego is the point around which all of us are contracted.  It represents our beliefs, our values and our conditioned patterns.  It also represents everything we think of as ‘mine’: my job, my house, my wife, my name – and everything we think of as ‘me’: I am a leader, I am a male, I am successful (or I am not), I work for XYZ company. It is the illusion of who we think we are, and when we are not able to see outside of this illusion we are subject to being governed by its conditioned patterns, thereby living and leading UNCONSCIOUSLY.

The ego is focused purely on self-perpetuation.  It is therefore founded in FEAR.  Fear of losing parts of ourselves.  Fear of losing our security.  Fear of losing our position.  Fear of uncertainty.  Fear of being made to be wrong, look bad or lose control of our circumstances.  It evokes in us DEFENSIVENESS against anything that threatens our sense of self.  These kinds of reactions are widespread and easily recognisable in most organisations – and in ourselves.

Pursuing PROFIT and POWER fits in very well with the nature of the ego-driven leader.  By securing profit and power at all costs, the leader gets to maintain the illusion of his own ego.

This becomes obviously limiting when one is able to extend one’s perspective to see beyond the context of the ego-driven leader.  Much more is available than the ego can see, namely the potential to act into a field of possibilities (as reported by modern day science via quantum physics) without the illusionary boundaries (mindset, beliefs, reactions) of the ego.  This field of possibilities is less accessible to the ego-full leader because he is too concerned about maintaining his position and his security.  He suffers from a mindset of SCARCITY rather than ABUNDANCE.

Even where traditional leaders may engage in SELF-DEVELOPMENT via traditional coaching, leadership programmes, the development of EQ and other forms of personal development and knowledge development, the EGO still rules.  Without becoming aware of one’s own ego and seeing its influence on our lives, and its inherently illusionary nature, the leader is limited to only ever going so far in his personal development.  At best, he can expect to understand more and more about his own STORY.  However, our story about ourselves, our life, what made us who we are, what our beliefs and patterns are, can only take us so far – to the outer limits of our own story.  It cannot take us beyond this.  To go beyond our own story we need to notice the illusion that the story is.  Our story is founded on our ego’s or identity’s patterns and responses – and, ultimately, our identity is not who we are.

At this point, in recognising this, the leader has the potential to step outside of his ego.  He becomes able to occupy a vantage point outside of his conditioned patterns and unconscious behaviour, observing it rather than having a perspective only from within it.  When the ego or identity is recognised for what it is, an illusion, the leader gains access to the field of being beyond ego.

At this point, the leader has entered into the field of the CONSCIOUS LEADER.  This is depicted by the placement of the green dotted line.  This is not to say that this green line represents the outer limits of the Conscious Leader.  Rather, it is meant to imply that anything outside of the red line depicting the ego enters into the field of the Conscious Leader.

He enters into a field of possibility where he is in creation much more than he is in reaction, and where DEEPENING his connection with his self and HEIGHTENING the expression of his authentic self becomes ever more possible.

Because the Conscious Leader is freer from the conditioned patterns and limitations of his ego, he is able to act less from fear and more in SERVICE OF THE GREATER WHOLE.  In Conscious Capitalism terms, this means acting for the GREATER SYSTEM of which the business is part.  Rather than relying on a focus on profit and shareholders as a way of maintaining security, the Conscious Leader is able to be far more abundant, extending his focus, widening his worldview and focusing on all stakeholders.  In Conscious Business terms, these include the employees, the suppliers, the community of which the business forms part, society, and the environment.

As practised in Conscious Capitalism, profit is still important.  However, it is not pursued at the expense of everything and everyone else connected to the business.  The Conscious Leader strives to maximize the benefits and coordinates the needs of all the stakeholders in the business, keeping his perspective wide and inclusive.

Conscious Leadership depicts a move from ‘me’ to ‘we’.  It requires one to move beyond one’s ego or identity so that one can act for the whole that is greater than oneself, the whole to which one and one’s business is connected.  The deepened BEING of the Conscious Leader enables him to connect with a HIGHER PURPOSE that is greater than profit alone.  Connecting to this higher purpose provides an energetic alignment for everyone connected to the business – and the Conscious Leader’s role is to coordinate this connection while ensuring that the business is run in an operationally sound manner as well.  Research indicates an increase of over nine times more profit in businesses run in this way and far more sustainability during tough times.

In terms of the coordinates of the Unconscious Leader, therefore, these can be seen to be located squarely within the red circle, wherever that leader’s ego might be placed.  The coordinates of the CONSCIOUS LEADER, on the other hand, exist anywhere outside of this area towards the green circle, with the possibility of expanding ever outwards into the space of possibility.  This represents a new way of leading and of doing business.

Beyond CoachingTM – A Way to Create Conscious Leaders out of Whole Teams

I’ve just returned from being an observing attendee of Beyond CoachingTM, a programme designed to create conscious leaders in the workplace – and to create whole teams of them.

The client was a private healthcare group and they suffered from the usual discontent of organisations in general, and healthcare companies in particular – trying to lead disgruntled nurses unhappy with their pay, the impact of this on the customers, silo behaviour between divisions, fuelled by assumptions about ‘those over there in accounts’. You know the sort of thing. You’ve seen it in your own organisations and, if you’re a consultant, you’ve dealt with it every day.

But something slowly started to shift over the course of the two days. By lunchtime on day 2 the team members came back to the room saying they could really see that things could begin to change in their organisation as a result of what they were doing here. I saw them getting excited by the possibilities of life and work outside of their normal boxes of seeing the world. They began developing a common language for how to take powerful action, impact others and reality, and create the results they were seeking in the most direct route possible. They were less weighed down by the stories and impasses that afflict us in organisational life.

What were they doing? Not the usual coaching skills programme. Not typical leadership or even team development. This was something very different.

Beyond CoachingTM is not ‘training’. It’s not ‘doing to’ or ‘applying’ a different set of skills to what already exists in leaders. It’s not (only) about adding knowledge, like an MBA would. It was about shifting who they were being. The shift happens in the room, over the period of time the modules take place, and it is irrevocable.

Picture a tree. You can add a lot of new leaves to the tips of the branches and call it change. But the tree still stands in the position it was. Beyond CoachingTM moves the whole trunk, roots and all, to a better place. Who these leaders were being was being shifted from a less powerful to a more powerful position, a position of higher perspective. They saw more. In fact, they were engaged in the process of seeing how they were seeing. This created a whole lot more consciousness in the room. They were shifting to becoming conscious leaders.

What shifted? Greater self-responsibility, honesty and transparency. Greater awareness, more choice of response. The ability to impact those they lead in a clear, energetic way, causing them to shift as well. Communication that creates results and directly impacts reality. The importance of integrity and honouring commitments, to themselves and each other, and holding each other accountable. Everybody changing together – as a team. They began to climb out of the holes that the habits and conditioning of a lifetime had created (as it does in all of us), and started seeing the expansive possibility of the world around them for the first time. It was intoxicating.

Beyond CoachingTM delivers the following:

  • A permanent shift in the being of the leader
  • Tools to use in life and work, to get out of victimhood and into creation
  • Refined skills in communicating, coaching and leading others
  • And, if chosen, an ICF-accreditated coaching qualification.

Most coaching programmes I have seen add leaves to the top of the tree. Beyond CoachingTM changes the gameplan. It taps into the potential lying dormant in your organisation and develops the competence inhouse to identify the champions, and coach and lead them to greatness. As a result, the whole organisation expands, evolves and performs exponentially better.

The Conscious Leader

The Conscious Leader is a hub for flow.  This requires being able to recognise and transcend the ego or identity and all its mannerisms that stops the flow.  Taking up a position and being right about it stops the flow.  Trying to look good and being driven to look better than others stops the flow.  Controlling and defending your territory stops the flow.  All forms of attachment stop the flow and the conscious leader is able to recognise when he does this with greater and greater skill and let it go so that the way he leads within his system is effortless.  He is able to concentrate on what the Whole needs for flow to happen within it rather than focusing on himself and what he needs to survive.  As a result, the conscious leader can transcend his ego and look towards serving the greater Whole, involving all the stakeholders within the constellation of his company, taking this sphere of influence out as broadly as possible.  Serving the Whole is most likely to take the form of connectedness, communication, generosity, abundance, trust, forgiveness, care-taking, freedom, self-responsibility, love and the greater good.

Can Advertising be a Conscious Business?

Prompted by an article by Martin Lindstrom (The Future of Ethics in Branding), I got to thinking about whether that paragon of unethical business, the advertising industry, could indeed make the quantum leap towards ethical and conscious business.

After all, advertising’s raison d’être is to beguile us, seduce us, manipulate and lie to us, all the while making us feel good about ourselves.  It plays directly and unashamedly into our egos – which is exactly what conscious business and conscious leadership isn’t about.

Sound boring not to succumb to it?  Apparently not.  Even advertising and branding has felt the pressure of the gathering zeitgeist towards more ethical and conscious behaviour.

Lindstrom, a brand futurist and author of books such as BRANDchild and BRANDsense, predicted how personal brands would take over our worlds just prior to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter making this a reality in our lives, and his prediction for 2012 is a rise in the importance of ethics.  This coincides nicely with the rise of consciousness and the focus on more ethical business practices and conscious capitalism that we are seeing today.

Lindstrom identifies a number of practices that the advertising industry can start taking seriously if they are to avoid being exposed or having their clients exposed through consumer action fuelled by social media (see previous post here on conscious business backlash over soda wars: how consumer action can overthrow giants bent on unethical practices).  These advertising practices dovetail well with conscious business behaviours, so it is worth pointing out the big themes here:

Rule No. 1: Transparency

Rule No. 2: The power of the Consumer

Rule No. 3: Consider your impact on others

Unpacking each one of these in turn and borrowing liberally from Lindstrom:

Rule No. 1 – Transparency:

Transparency is one of the unwritten rules of conscious businesses.  From making financial information available to all employees to having an ‘open book’ detailing what everybody in store is being paid, conscious businesses don’t run themselves by subterfuge and fear.  These are the instruments of the ego: gaining advantage for one’s own survival through power-play, while in the process disadvantaging others.  Similarly, Lindstrom recommends that advertising follows the same code: be 100% transparent.  This is done by making sure that claims about products and brands stack up to reality, that your consumers know exactly what you know about them, that they know how you will use this information and are able to opt out at any time, that the downsides of products and services are well-communicated alongside their strengths and benefits, that expiration dates are visibly communicated, endorsements and testimonials are real and that nothing ‘hides behind’ legalese and small print from the customer’s point of view.

Rule No. 2 – The power of the Consumer:

Let consumers make the final call.  This is very similar to some conscious businesses (like Whole Foods Market) where the customer is placed in the foreground of all stakeholders.  Lindstrom recommends securing an ethical sign-off from a consumer panel regarding their perception of the product, as well as verifying the ethics of the product in reality.  We know from recent experience that consumers have a voice and if they are dissatisfied, if your business practices or advertising standards don’t match their values and ethics, or if you stray too far from the line, you will experience a powerful backlash through the unstoppable influence of social media.  Consumers are all connected: you want them to be positively connected about you.  It’s a great self-organising system, forcing us to all become more conscious of what we say and do.

Rule No 3 – Consider your impact on others:

In conscious business speak, this rule plays out by considering and integrating the needs of all your stakeholders so that they all benefit, not having some benefit at the expense of others.  Your stakeholders include your employees, your customers, your suppliers and partners, your shareholders and investors, the community of which your business forms part, the wider society and the environment.  In Lindstrom’s terms, he recommends that advertising is always open and transparent about the environmental impact of the brands it promotes, including their carbon footprint and sustainability.  And, from a human perspective, don’t do anything to others – and especially their kids – that you wouldn’t do to your own kids, friends and family.

These three rules appear to be emerging as a sort of set of ‘Golden Rules’ guiding our conducting of business.  Overlaying each other, they create a web of self-regulating behaviour that prompts us towards becoming more conscious and taking more self-responsibility for our actions.  Transparency borne out of global connectivity and social media, powered by the opinions and values of connected consumers the world over who care about the origins of what they buy, and who require businesses to act responsibly for the collective benefit of all.  This is the stuff that revolutions are made of, not just to a slightly different rearrangement of the deckchairs but to an entirely new order of thinking.

With thanks to Kellee Franklin who posted the original Lindstrom article on LinkedIn’s Group: Conscious Capitalists – Pacific NW.

What’s in a Name? Conscious Business backlash over Soda Wars

Just when you thought it was safe to call yourself a conscious business, you find that someone in your company has broken ranks and suddenly you have the wrath of consumer social media wars on your doorstep.

Such was the experience of South African food and clothing giant, Woolworths. Much loved amongst South Africans consumers, Woolworths is the epitome of cool: staff wear cool black gear, sashay around in cool, grey granite tiled shops, selling superior quality food at above-average prices, which customers are happy to pay for because of the ‘Woolworths experience’ and ‘Woolworths quality’. It’s a bit of a status symbol shopping at Woolworths. They are very proud of their green credentials as well: MySchool cards and donations abound, environmentally friendly initiatives, ‘Do One Thing Different’ posters and logos encouraging us to act morally in our food purchase undertakings.

Except…someone in Woolworths didn’t quite keep to the brief and ended up pinching an idea from a small soda pop manufacturer, Frankie’s, copying their logos, their names and even the styling of their bottles. Frankie’s is a tiny outfit and the legal battle that ensued has been compared to the battle of David and Goliath – and this instance, as in that epic battle, David won. Woolworths was ordered to remove their product from the shelves and rumour has it that they have donated all their stock to charity.

There are several sobering lessons in this tale for those of us interested in conscious business.

  1. Firstly, don’t assume that once a conscious business, always a conscious business. You have to work hard and conscientiously to keep your conscious credentials and behaviour going, and ensure that you walk your talk in all your business dealings across your organisation. Not much room for slip-ups: people are watching.
  2. Don’t assume that everyone in your company is on board. You might think you’re a conscious business run by conscious leaders, but just somewhere there may be someone who isn’t and that can have massive repercussions for your brand and your reputation. If you’re going to be a conscious business, ensure that the big rules are clear for everyone to follow.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Consumer backlash via social media wars against Woolworths (now dubbed Woolworse) using Facebook and Twitter caused enough pressure to get the ruling in favour of Frankie’s. From the Arab Spring to the recent MacDonald’s debacle, pedestrians and especially consumers armed with social media are a formidable force and you don’t want to get them voting against you.

It’s a sobering reminder to businesses everywhere that with levels of transparency and global connectivity at their highest levels ever, businesses can no longer get away with underhanded, unconscious (or anti-conscious) behaviour.


A Model for Human Transformation – and Conscious Leadership

Jeff Carreira at Enlightennext has written the most amazing series of four posts to do with the transformation and evolution of ourselves as human beings – and I believe what he says is the most essential part of the evolution and transformation of the conscious leader. To ‘get ourselves’, what we believe to be our essential nature – or our identity – and to be able to develop the choices to step outside of this, is the fundamental building block of the journey of the conscious leader. These posts are well worth a read and well expressed. Here is the first post, copied in full below, with links to the previous three posts included.




Self, Truth, Reality and Language – Part 4: A Model for Human Transformation

This will be the final post in this series and it brings the ideas we have been working with together into a model for how human transformation happens.

Human beings change in many ways. We become smarter, we become stronger, we become more assertive, we become more reflective, we become, we become, we become… There is seemingly no end to the ways in which we can improve upon who we are. If we make a category for all these ways of changing we can call them forms of ‘self improvement’.

There is another completely different way that human beings change that I would categorize as ‘human transformation’. The distinction between these two classifications of human change is critically important for those of us who aspire to attain dramatic and lasting change during our lifetime.

The experience of human transformation is one in which the sense of identity itself changes. In this experience you do not feel that you have become an improved version of who you already were. You feel like you have become a different person altogether. You have transformed.

What could we possibly mean by this? How does transformation happen? How do we become a different person?

In these posts we have been speaking about our sense of self as being formed by a boundary between those ideas that we experience as ‘thoughts that I have’, and those that we experience as ‘me thinking’.

Those thoughts that we identify with as ‘me thinking’ are also those thoughts that we compulsively act on. When they appear in consciousness we simply do what they say – or fight what they say – either way we compulsively respond to them without feeling that we have any choice in the matter. Our identity then could be said to be composed of those aspects of our experience that we respond to compulsively. (In this series of posts I have been speaking of thoughts, but this would certainly also include feelings and emotions.)

Let’s think for a minute about perception. When we perceive something we don’t think of ourselves as having any choice in the matter. When we see a tree we have no sense that we could have seen a dog or a cat. We don’t relate to perception as something that we choose.

In terms of our thoughts and feelings there are some that we definitely relate to as optional. Certain of my thoughts reveal possibilities for action that I can either choose or not choose to act upon. Other thoughts seem to spontaneously lead to action without me being aware of any conscious choice being made. These thoughts simply feel like me. I don’t act on them because I choose to; the thoughts themselves seem to lead directly to action without my intervention.

What if this was all a function of habit? What if we simply had fallen into an incredibly strong habit of responding to certain thoughts and feelings? And what if that habit had become so strong and so fast that we were not aware of choosing anything at all? Is our sense of identity created from a very strong habit of responding to certain aspects of our experience spontaneously?

If this was true – and I believe it is to a large extent – then it must be possible to break that habit and develop another. First we must find a way, for instance through spiritual practice like meditation, to break our habit of compulsively identifying with and acting on certain thoughts and feelings. Then we must find some deeper and more profound part of our experience and begin to identify with and act on that. The work of transformation would be to consistently make choices that are aligned with that deeper part of our experience. If we do that long enough it is possible that it will become a habit and eventually we will find that we spontaneously respond to that part of ourselves without thinking about it. When this happens we will feel like a different person. We will have the same body and the same mind, but we will be responding to a completely different part of our experience. We will see the world differently, we will act differently and the people that know us will want to know what has happened to us.

Enjoyed this?  Read the rest here:

Third post here: Psychological development vs Spiritual transformation.

Second post here: Sentences in your head.

First post here: Radical freedom.









Recognising the Small Conscious Businesses: Part Two

Wow. I am so touched right now. I looked at my blog (Conscious Leaders Blog) and saw that I had 71 followers! 71! How did that happen, seemingly overnight? Now, ‘71’, you might say, ‘that’s not very many – I have 1 million’; but for me, 71 is significant and it was a touching surprise this evening.

And so as part celebration, part thanks to you, I thought I’d tell you about the follow up to the story of the Sunninghill Guest Lodge, Conscious Business. It’s a heartwarming one that shows just how conscious businesses can have a spontaneous positive impact on the community around them and increase the feelgood factor.

Ann-Magret, at the Sunninghill Guest Lodge, tells me that she has a cleaner who has worked for her for eight years. This cleaner is rather shy and doesn’t have much education, but she cleans like a dream and has a heart of gold. Last year she found out that she was pregnant with her third child. She was devastated because her husband is not permanently employed and things were tough enough as it is. After a difficult pregnancy she gave birth to a sickly baby girl and spent much of her time carrying the baby backwards and forwards to clinics and hospitals. She was told there was a problem with the baby’s heart, but that she could only see the cardiologist in 11 months’ time at the general hospital.

Ann-Magret decided to take the little girl to her personal doctor since the baby was very sick and they were afraid she would not last until the appointment at the general hospital. Now, says, Ann-Magret, is where the part about serving the community comes in. At her local private hospital there is large paediatric cardiology department which sponsors many heart operations for children and which really does incredible work. On many occasions when Ann-Magret had empty rooms at the Lodge, she would give these rooms to the hospital staff free of charge or for a small fee. From a business point of view, she says, the rooms were empty and she wasn’t losing any income, plus she believes it to be a very effective way of advertising. So, over the years, she has established relationships with the department at the hospital.

Ann-Magret made the call to them, expecting many days of waiting for a doctor to see the little girl. However, the very next day she got an appointment with one of the world’s (not just South Africa’s, but the world’s) top paediatric heart surgeons. This amazing man, she says, spent 45 minutes with them and confirmed the need for the little girl to undergo a heart operation. This was a big blow, since the costs involved were prohibitive – but the very next day the finances were arranged! A big hotel group sponsored the hundreds of thousands of South African Rands for the procedure.

And here is the best part of the story, says Ann-Magret. The cleaner’s husband is a simple, old-fashioned, humble man who works in harsh environments when he can find employment. She very much doubts whether anyone has ever paid him much respect or time for that matter. For him to come into a world-class hospital, where there are no queues and no waiting lists, and to be treated with respect and dignity by incredible doctors was an event that changed his life. In addition to the fact that these doctors will save his daughter’s life, in a strange way it has empowered her father too. He was, says Ann-Magret, “totally blown away that perfect strangers could care so much for his little girl, a little girl that was really very much unwanted, and now look at all this…”

So here’s to the Sunninghill Guest Lodge. If it wasn’t for Ann-Magret’s care for her staff above and beyond their job output, and for her care and generosity towards the community in which the business exists, then this little story which touched my heart, and I’m sure touched yours, would not have happened.

It’s the small, individual actions like this that matter, that collectively add up to not only a great, meaningful and profitable way of doing business, but a way in which even those tangentially connected to a business can benefit and that we can all feel thankful for.

Let’s Not Forget to Recognise the Small Conscious Businesses

I’ve just checked out of the Sunninghill Guest Lodge in Johannesburg, South Africa, a small little conscious business, and I am armed with nothing other than a Christmas present.  When last did you stay at a small hotel and receive a gift in return from the owners when you settled your bill?

The Sunninghill Guest Lodge is a conscious business because you feel it in every fiber of every interaction with every staff member.  You feel it in the culture of the place.  They serve the business with a sense of a higher purpose which, even if they don’t recognise it as such, is to make every guest feel special and welcome.  The grounds are charming, no request is too much trouble and they have perfected the art of serving guests without seeming to suck up to them too much.  It feels like just a genuine enjoyment of having you there.

They could easily save money and increase profits by not having the welcoming armchairs with the port decanter and glasses at the front door for guests to help themselves, or by not giving me an executive suite for the price of a standard room because I am a returning guest.  But they do this because, I feel, they really like to connect with their guests and make them happy.  And as a result I am writing this blog and promoting the Sunninghill Guest Lodge in Johannesburg, South Africa, and thoroughly recommending to whoever might be reading this that if you’re ever in the area you should stay with them.  Such is the magic and power of the community and society benefits of conscious business.

What else I noticed is that I commented to them this morning that they were, I thought, a conscious business.  They did not know what a conscious business was, but their eyes lit up and they sat up with interest as I described higher purpose and creating value for all stakeholders.  They immediately got it.  They could connect with it straight away, possibly because it is an owner-managed business and they are directly connected with the purpose of their business and its profits.

Fast forward an hour or so to my meeting nearby at one of the largest global professional services firms, where my enthusiasm in talking about conscious business and conscious leadership is met with the stony expression of leaders I have come to recognise when addressing this topic to larger organisations.  One politely asked me a few questions, so as not to appear rude I suspect, but really, try as I might with the selling job on conscious business, they just couldn’t seem to see the point.

I wonder about these large corporates where thousands of people burrow away in their jobs, cranking metaphorical handles, where even the leaders feel removed from the direct link between their efforts and outputs.  It seems to me the more tenuous the chain between my efforts and the contribution I can see I’m making, the less connected I may feel to the higher purpose of what I am doing.   Owner-managed businesses have it easier – if they can be bothered – to operate as conscious businesses.  Larger organisations have a lot of inertia to get through first.

Whole Foods, Patagonia, The Container Store et al. – these big companies have got it right somehow.  They lead the way with battalions of motivated and inspired staff supporting the company’s conscious purpose.  How do we ignite the same enthusiasm in Joe Average at XYZ Company?

It seems to me it’s got to lie in the leaders who can create the culture that can ignite and sustain a conscious business for every individual working there.  And this, I have found, is a difficult task (so far).  My enthusiasm for what seems like the bleedingly obvious evolutionary leap to conscious business is generally met with glazed expressions or obvious disinterest in most leaders when I broach the topic – but funnily enough, is more gettable to the man on the street.  It’s crushing really.

I take comfort from the network of conscious business thought leaders across the world I can connect to, like Mark Lefko and Runa Bouius of the Conscious Leader Network in the US, who are getting excellent results with getting together groups of influential, conscious leaders at their events, and Dr Sarah Morris from the Global Institute of Conscious Leadership in the UK who tells me that she is getting a better reception to the idea of conscious leadership amongst the leaders she meets there.  This makes me feel less isolated (and, let’s be honest, a bit less freakish) and gives me hope again that it won’t be too long before conscious business and conscious leadership make it into the mainstream.  In the process, let’s not forget to acknowledge and promote the ‘little guys’ who instinctively get it.

Conscious Capitalism is our Individual Responsibility as Consumers

An intriguing link arrived through my Google alerts this morning: a post about Office Products, Conscious Capitalism and How We Can Make A Difference.  Office supplies and Conscious Capitalism, I thought?

But the post by Tristan Hill at Zuma brought a new level of awareness to the front of my mind that I hadn’t really been thinking about directly very much.  The power that each of us as individual consumers has to support and grow Conscious Capitalism.  And not only the power, but the responsibility.  It’s not really up to the folk at the Conscious Capitalism Institute.  It’s up to each one of us.

I guess I hadn’t really thought about it as starkly as this before, but how much integrity do I have if I am supporting the growth of Conscious Capitalism but not consciously shopping at conscious companies and avoiding unconscious ones?  Ouch.

Each of us has tremendous power to make a difference to the business world that is emerging through our choices as consumers.  And even beyond that, if you subscribe to the view as I do that we are all interconnected, that we can powerfully be the change we want to see in the world as Ghandi put it, and that at some level I am responsible for what goes on in the Whole, then there’s a whole lot of responsibility that goes along with that for each of us as consumers.  Am I willing to take on this responsibility, not 99% but 100%, no back doors?

There are some good companies out there doing great things on the Conscious Capitalism front.  I was amazed to read that Zuma not only follows conscious business practices but gives 50% of their net profits to charities, charities that they invite their customers to select.  That’s taking giving back and your customer relationships seriously second to none.

As ever, our helpful Raj Sisodia’s Firms of Endearment (this text is becoming like the holy book of Conscious Capitalism) points to the other companies (at the time of its publication in 2007) who were conscious companies.  I’m sure there are many more that have developed in the meantime, but for easy reference here they are on one page with a couple more thrown in.

Happy shopping!

Check out more at

Conscious Capitalism, Victimhood and Responsibility

One of the most brilliantly acerbic yet honestly observed posts I have recently read about our current state of affairs is ‘Capitalism vs. Capitulation’ from Bret Callentine of the Lakewood Observer.

Callentine gives his commentary on the endless merry-go-round of victimhood and rescue we’ve embarked upon in life – and especially in relation to how we run our finances and the things we expect to have.  Being dissatisfied with our lot (because we believe we have an inborn right to something better), we the people whinge and whine about the unfairness of life and ‘the system’, demanding that something out there changes in order to give us the same opportunities that others have, so that we can enjoy the same benefits.  Instead of looking to our own role as the creator of the state our lives, we expect something or someone out there to change and do it for us.  And, so, in response to our mass demands, corporations make rash decisions, governments grant billions, politicians rush to pacify us, and rules are changed in our favour.  And when the system becomes unbalanced and unsustainable, we complain again and the whole merry-go-round begins again.  As Callentine puts it: “Every year I hear more and more complaining that the outcomes are unjust because the rules are unfair.  So the rules get changed and the system becomes more complex, and red tape and bureaucracy ensnare a whole new class of victim.  Blaming capitalism for a recession is like blaming gravity for a plane crash…like cursing electricity when your light bulb burns out.”  I tend to agree.  It’s what we do with capitalism that counts.  Victimhood and responsibility lies at the heart of our problems.  And victimhood, like drug dependency, pushes us further and further into expectation and apathy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about responsibility lately.  At what point do we take responsibility for our lives?  And how much: for everything, or only partly?  When do we stop blaming the reality of our lot on others and get into action of creating what we want?  And this doesn’t have to be violent action; it can be peaceful, responsible, measured and considered, with the quiet awareness in the background that we are the creators of our reality.

Is this a big statement?  Some of you may think so.  But consider for a moment that hero of life’s attitude, Viktor Frankl.  Frankl, a psychiatrist caught up in the Nazi concentration camps during the second World War and, having lost everything, including all the members of his family, came to realise that the difference between the people who survived the concentration camps (those who escaped enforced death of course) and those who gave up despite being kept alive was: attitude.  Frankl discovered a great truth: Between an event and our response, there is a space.  In that space lies our power to choose our response.  And in our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Now that’s freedom.  No space for blame there, for complaint.  Only the certainty – and the responsibility – that we get to choose in every moment what we want to do about the circumstances of our lives.  And in that choice lies the reality of the lives we experience.  It’s our relationship to events that counts, far more than the events themselves.

The question is, are we willing to take up this responsibility or do we choose to remain in complaint?  Complaint is certainly easier; responsibility is harder.  But complaint leaves us powerless, taking responsibility gives us power.

Although many of the criticisms leveled at the Occupy Wall Street movements seem to have been about a bunch of young directionless malingerers who don’t take responsibility and only complain, I think they have been taking responsibility.  Even rising up and stating what we’re unhappy about gets us out of victimhood and into action.  The differentiator is whether we rise up out of complaint that others should fix things for us, or whether we rise up with a solution or a willingness to be part of a solution.

And then there’s the capitalist moguls, the CEOs who have high-flying jobs and certainly are taking responsibility, but, in some way, are taking responsibility only for themselves.  In granting themselves massive pay packets at the expense of the other stakeholders in their companies, they are guilty of acting for themselves but not for the whole.  This seems to me like responsibility gone astray.

So, with responsibility I believe we need to look at it from a number of different levels:

On one dimension: What do I want to create in my life and am I taking responsibility for it? Am I in action of this or am I in complaint?  And am I avoiding falling into the downward spiral of victimhood – expectation, complaint, frustration, anger, aggression and resignation – by getting into the action and saying what I want, taking responsibility for the outcomes and being part of the solution?

And on the other dimension: When I take responsibility am I doing it for myself or am I doing it for the greater good?  Especially as a leader, am I acting from my self-serving ego and my own survival or am incorruptible in my commitment to the greater Whole, the survival and flourishing of the whole system of which I am part?

We are ultimately responsible – for everything.  And we ultimately responsible for everything – together.