What is conscious leadership? How can one build a more conscious style of leadership? Bob Anderson a true pioneer in the field of leadership development and research answers some of these questions.
What is Conscious Leadership?
Conscious leadership is only a matter of degree. Someone we call unconscious is operating at an early level of consciousness or a less mature level of consciousness. We are all conscious and the question is to what degree.
Bob has been researching for the last 20 years the intersection between the inner maturity and how that translates into leadership effectiveness. He mentions there are three levels of leadership:
- Reactive level
- Creative level
- Integral level
80% of leaders are running at Reactive Levels of Leadership!
A reactive leader operates from a mental conditioning formed by believes and assumptions that we accumulated in our early days. We have been doing it our whole lives; so, it is automatic.
For instance, a reactive leader may not speak their mind in order to be seen as a friendly person, or a reactive leader may be highly driven with a strong need to get it right that they become autocratic and critical. The reactive style of leadership always wants to play it safe.
The reactive style of leadership only gets us so far and they are outmatched by the complexities of challenges we face in adult life: families, marriages, leadership, and so on, that we need do to work to upgrade our operating system from reactive to creative. This is significant work!
This move from reactive to creative is what psychologist Dr. Robert Kegan from Harvard calls Self-Authoring i.e. we move from being authored by others to authored by self.
“In Creative Leadership we are less focused on all the messages of how I am supposed to be from how past and current environment and much more focused on creating a vision that I believe in and create an organization that matters with outcomes worthy of our deepest commitments”
It is not feasible to create an organization that is innovative and provides solutions to world problems under the reactive leadership style. Organizations need a minimum of creative level of leadership in order to perform in the face of complexities.
What is the main difference between the reactive style and creative leadership style?
Listen to the podcast where Bob shares his own story about a conflict he had with his partner while writing the book “Scaling Leadership”.
In the reactive style, when you are less conscious your automatic patterns reach limits and you hit against a wall.
Self-authoring perspective is: How do I embody a vision of myself asa leader? How do I embody the kind of culture we are trying to create? How do I embody the relationships I want?
You ask yourself: How do I become that? In Self Authoring mode we develop the ability to see into our own operating system and examine how it supports our vision and we get to redesign it. For instance, I don’t have to be so threatened when my ideas are criticised because my ideas are not me.
How do you move from the reactive to the creative level?
Identify what is the one thing that will take me / my organization to the next level. Take steps to redesign the way you are working. Holding questions like:
- What is the vision?
- How am I operating?
- How do I want to show up?
- How do I interrupt the vision and cancel myself out?
Holding all these will help you move from reactive to creative.
Get Feedback. Years of research has been published in “Scaling Leadership”, indicates that people see you. People see you with more precision than we ever knew and if you can get feedback and harvest that and build trust to create a learning-rich environment, you can shift pretty fast.
People can serve as your mirror. Their views about you are more precise than you see yourself. While getting feedback from people ensure that is a constructive one.
You bring the weather as a leader into the team, into the organization, and what is happening around you is a reflection of you.
There is a powerful poem by a Zen master:
The hand moves, and the fire’s whirling takes different shapes, The hand moves, and the fire’s whirling takes different shapes, All things change when we do.
It’s a universal principle – Start with yourself and take responsibility for the development effort, then the culture will shift.
What are the things one should watch out for when moving from reactive to creative style of leadership?
As leaders’ step into higher leadership positions
You cannot not be in over your head
As organizations decide to grow 2x times, you put yourself in a development gap and that’s normal for everyone:
You cannot not be in a gap.
The Development gap is the mismatch between the complexity of the business context and the complexity of my mind and heart to meet that challenge. Its normal to be in a gap even when your business is flourishing. We all need to work on the gap.
How do you see the difference between Creative and Integral Leadership?
Time scales expand:
- Reactive is weeks to months, fighting fire, short term problem fix
- Creative is 10 -15 years, long term vision and strategy, self–authored vision and strategy
- Integral is decades if not centuries.
Integral Leadership shifts the perspective from being the author of my business to taking responsibility for the welfare of the whole system and becoming an architect of the bigger system. Integral Leadership includes all the stakeholders like welfare, environment, etc.
How can one move from creative to integral?
Only 5 % of leaders are operating here. The 1st step is to upgrade to Creative Leadership before moving to Integral.
Start to learn about Projection: When you are making someone your enemy, think about how does that live in you? Take the log off your own eye so you can see more clearly. When you start to hold inner tensions of the brighter and darker sides of you; you are better placed to hold the outer tensions. The more you can see your own complexity the more you can hold and heal the outer tensions.
All things change with the leader. All things about an organization change when you as a leader change. Be the change that you want to see in the world, because all things change when we do.