Time for Conscious Leadership – The emergence of the conscious leader

The emergence of the conscious leader

Business leaders are facing unprecedented demands that awaken us to the new dawn of leadership. Technological advancement is outpacing our agility to adapt, global conflict and competition is intensifying, generational shifts in the workplace are challenging conventional organizational culture and emerging attitudes about corporate responsibilities are putting pressure on traditional authoritative and hierarchical leadership. In this article, we discuss what it means to consciously lead your organisation through radical change in these challenging times.

The signature characteristic of our time is the pace of change. After 13.5 billion years of evolution, change went hypercritical in our lifetime. The world is changing faster than companies can become resilient.

Gary Hamel, Time for Management 2.0

The emergence of the conscious leader     

It is John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market[1], who coined the phrase conscious leadership to the journey of stepping up to a higher level of integrity and responsibility as a leader.  He identifies nine distinguishing characteristics and behaviours that unite those striving to be more conscious leaders.

In a nutshell, this is what he says:

1.Vision & Virtue

  • Put purpose first: Be guided not only by profit but by a vision for the value you can contribute to the world.
  • Lead with love: Treat business not as cut-throat competition but as an opportunity to serve and uplift people and communities.
  • Always act with integrity: Hold yourself to the highest standards of behaviour to earn the trust of those you lead and those you serve.

2. Mindset & Strategy

  • Find win-win-win solutions: Find solutions that serve not only your shareholders but your whole arena of stakeholders.
  • Innovate and create value: Build cultures that nurture and liberate the creative spirit.
  • Think long term: Focus on lasting impact and consequences of actions and choices.

3. People & Culture

  • Constantly evolve the team: Promote and retain based on character, emotional intelligence and cultural fit.
  • Regularly revitalize: Prioritise your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy.
  • Continually learn and grow: Commit yourself to a lifetime of learning, both personally and professionally.

When leaders become more conscious, the organisations they lead become more conscious, creating an ever-widening circle of purpose-driven cultures and communities.


John Mackey, Conscious Leadership

It takes courage to be a conscious leader because it requires us to swim against the tide of conventional wisdom that tells us to focus primarily on short-term goals and objectives, financial targets and delivering quality work.  Only when we take deliberate steps to shift our focus from receiving recognition and rewards form our own individual success to contributing and servicing a full arena of stakeholders – clients, teams and the wider community – do we move into a place of achievement and fulfilment. Leadership, after all, is a constant journey of service.


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[1] John Mackey, author of Elevating Humanity Through Business: Conscious Leadership.