Yesterday I was on a call with Diana Chapman (pictured below), a highly valued colleague in the field of conscious leadership to which I have been committed for several decades. Diana is a cofounder of the Conscious Leadership Group and a co-author of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. I haven’t known Diana long but since our first meeting a couple of years ago I have been very impressed by her authenticity, straight-forwardness and presence.
My FutureShapers business partner Tom Eddington and I were talking with Diana about distinguishing between some people’s interest in the conversation about conscious leadership versus being a conscious leader. It has been apparent to all of us that the interest in these conversations has grown exponentially in recent years but we are not seeing a proportional rise in commitment to leading and living more consciously. A quick look around at the quality of leadership in this world makes the case for this latter assertion.
Before we talked, Tom and I wondered if there was a promise we hadn’t made that would serve as a “magic bullet” that would push people over the edge so they would eagerly jump from the conversation pool into the commitment pool. Or put another way, to convert the conversation to a way of being in the world, converting the talk to the walk. As a writer, I wondered if there was a word or phrase that I was missing; that if I could only articulate the promise of conscious living in a powerful way then people would beat a path to our door.
Diana then said something that really caught my attention: she said, “Conscious leadership is a lifestyle.” Instantly I got the power of that statement. Being a conscious leader is not an activity like designing software or writing an article. Being a conscious leader is a way of being, a way of living. It permeates everything you do, say and are. It doesn’t require a title, a position or any authority whatsoever. It is an attitude or stand based on a willingness to be responsible for everything. Indeed, it is a lifestyle!
Adapting a new lifestyle isn’t like learning a new skill or getting accustomed to a new neighborhood. It is fundamentally changing the way you relate to others, your environment and yourself. It isn’t something to be learned but rather a commitment to a different way of being in the world.
Conscious leadership cannot be learned any more than you can satisfy your hunger by reading a menu at a restaurant. To satisfy hunger you must eat food not menus. To become a conscious leader you must commit yourself to a new life, where the choices you make are different, the relationships you value are different and the things that have meaning for you are different.
The frame through which you view life changes. You experience things differently.
When I think what this kind of commitment might be compared to I think of people going into the clergy – a lifetime of service to a deep belief; the commitment many people make to various service professions – such as nursing, law enforcement, first responders and teaching; getting married with the promise to be partners forever; or becoming parents who assume a lifetime commitment of child-rearing. These commitments consume a lifetime and require a committed lifestyle that is unique and distinct from so many others. These commitments also require a practice (usually including daily meditation) to review one’s commitment, to stay in shape, to keep up so that one’s commitment is always aligned with the times, best practices and wisdom of the day.
In FutureShapers, we call this commitment a “covenant” and ask our Roundtable members to sign it as a sacred promise – a promise to themselves, their fellow members and to us as the sponsoring body.
The conscious leader lifestyle requires staying awake all the time! In contrast to the less-than-conscious life, things like ruthless honesty, owning one’s reality, and being non-attached are ways of life. Ultimately, the conscious leader develops the experience of oneness with all things, serenity and pure knowingness.
This new lifestyle means giving up the many escapes, distractions and indulgences that we have grown so used to – like blaming others for our lives, thus avoiding any personal responsibility; or complaining about others as if they are at fault for our unhappiness; or having an attitude that the world revolves around us.
Call it “kick ass,” or “hardball” or “major league” (as I have done over the years), this conscious leader lifestyle means standing tall for something we are not used to standing for. Perhaps it means standing taller than we have ever stood before. In any event, this stand of being a conscious leader and living consciously has a sacred context, which means this new lifestyle includes an attitude of sacredness and reverence for all life.
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NOTE: Diana will be my guest on January 5th for the monthly Meet the Visionaries event I host in San Francisco. Soon after, we’ll have the video link on the FutureShapers website so you all can experience her directly. I am looking forward to continuing this conversation with her and sharing it with you.