This is a good time to redefine what it means to be a conscious leader. To date, my best summary of a conscious leader would be: “A conscious leader is fully present, self-aware, unattached to ego, and compassionate toward all fellow human beings. He or she demonstrates calm, poise, inner strength, and courage in his or her everyday work.”
I’ve always practiced a conscious leadership based on three pillars:
Pillar 1: Presence
This is about cultivating stillness to gain clarity by observing the mind itself. We work towards observing (not identifying) any emotions that arise, thus allowing us to see the world as it is. The goal is to more fully “be,” present from moment to moment. In modern life, this mindfulness practice solves for stress, anxiety, and misplaced assumptions. It allows more ease around what and how we are.
Pillar 2: Acceptance
The second pillar of conscious leadership requires unravelling our past teachings, assumptions, trauma, and paradigms and fully letting go of any fixed way of thinking or being. The aim is to more completely surrender to the greater universe and imbibe the impermanence of life itself. In other words, we allow the river of life to take its course and end the suffering created by trying to hold on or swim upstream. This pillar is a practice in knowing and trusting that it’s all going to be OK.
Pillar 3: Compassion
The third pillar of conscious leadership requires us to take action on the empathy we have for fellow humans and own selves. Instead of judging the situation or others, we seek to understand with genuine curiosity. We make small gestures of compassion by giving our time, attention, and helpfulness to those in our community. We remember that we all suffer, for different reasons and different ways, and need each other to make life worth living in a deep and meaningful way.
This is where my past definitions would end. But I’m realizing it’s time to add a fourth pillar: action.
A New Fourth Pillar: Action
Conscious leadership requires us to clearly declare our values. We must set our intentions for how we wish to be in the world, and act on those intentions every day, both in small compassionate ways in our interactions with others and in big and bold ways. It’s our duty to carry forward the important causes of the world without fear of reprisal or judgment. We must be like Thich Naht Hanh, the famous Vietnamese monk, who made a name for himself as a founder of “engaged buddhism” by taking action on causes like his opposition to the Vietnam war — he played a big part in ending it. His call is that we not retreat into ourselves or a remote monastery (whatever that looks like in our lives), but that we reach out, make our voices heard, and clearly demonstrate leadership when it matters most.
I’m amending my aforementioned definition of conscious leadership. Here’s the new version: “A conscious leader is fully present, self-aware, unattached to ego, and compassionate toward all fellow human beings. He or she demonstrates calm, poise, inner strength, and courage in his or her everyday work. And a conscious leader acts on their beliefs, engages in society, and takes a public stand for what matters most.”
Judge us by our actions
This isn’t just a change for how I want to act myself. It’s also a change in how we should evaluate our heroes and role models. Let’s create the paradigm that actions — not words or comments on Facebook — are the test of our true leaders. For many already on the journey of mindfulness or conscious leadership, this translates to taking our practice off the cushion and into our everyday work. It’s our job to reknit the community of those seeking a better world, better ways of doing business, and better, more conscious ways of simply “being”. May we find this a calling to reconnect with those of like mind, to help each other, then help the greater cause together. Working alone is not an option.
May we not retreat, ignore the happenings of the world, and just contemplate the injustices of politics and related policy amongst our likeminded peers. Rather, we must engage. Engage with renewed passion, energy, and stimulus to make the sacrifice that’s now needed, rather than merely offering our opinion or discretionary funds to feel like we’ve done our part. It’s time to ensure we ACT.
I, for one, am making a commitment to collaborate extensively — through more chances for input, coordinated effort, and shared outcomes — with those who share passions around the causes that matter to me, such as driving greater awareness around sustainable business, values-based conscious leadership, and authentic impact investing. This commitment includes even those that we might consider competitors in a different paradigm. I intend to unify, let many disparate voices become one, and dedicate my own energies and related resources here, at Conscious Company, to ensure we take action — in form of the content we create — to rally one loud, unified voice.
Where are our conscious leaders? Who will act?
After founding and selling three successful companies in the online marketing space, Aaron Kahlow discovered the power of Zen mindfulness practice and turned his community building and entrepreneurial talents toward conscious leadership and sustainable business. In addition to his leadership role as Chief Expansion Officer at Conscious Company Media, he is the founder and CEO of Mindful Order of Being, a nonprofit that provides education and support for anyone seeking a better, more purpose-driven way to live. His mission is to help others turn mindfulness into a way of life that brings purpose, meaning, clarity, and greater joy.