How to not sleepwalk through leadership: it's simple.

Updated: Jan 18

Whether you aspire to become a leader, business owner or influencer you need to determine how you will the influence you will have those around you. There are plenty of examples of leaders or influencers who influence others in a less than positive way. I wouldn’t be the first person ever to suggest that we need far more examples of conscious, compassionate, and altruistic leadership. In this article, we’ll be discussing the characteristics, competencies, and benefits of being this type of leader and collaborating with others who share these same qualities. To find out more, just keep reading.

Characteristics of a Conscious Leader

To be a conscious leader you need more than just a job title, name plaque or a corner office. Being a conscious leader is about beliefs, values, standards, and personal traits that aren’t conditional on circumstances, third parties or potential personal benefits. Conscious leaders are not impulsive, irresponsible, or entitled. What they are is self-aware with excellent communication and problem-solving skills. Their words and actions mean that people want to listen to them, follow them and respect them without needing to resort to toxic power plays. To delve deeper into the characteristics of conscious leaders: when they are wrong, when others are wrong and when a crisis occurs.

When They Are Wrong: Accountability, Humility, Integrity

No one is right 100% of the time. We all know this; we know perfection doesn’t exist. Whether it’s in deeds or words the way a conscious leader handles themselves when they get something wrong distinguishes them from a traditional manager. A conscious leader will display humility, integrity, and accountability. They will nor rage, blame-shift or re-write history. They will not deflect or desperately scramble to find a way to make it someone else’s fault. They don’t let ego or pride get in the way of admitting missteps and apologise without equivocation.

When Others Are Wrong: Compassion, Altruism, Listening

Given the fact that a conscious leader knows that perfection doesn’t exist, they understand that their stakeholders aren’t perfect either. Their stakeholders, whether it be suppliers, employees, or clients, may also make some missteps. Conscious leaders will, however, take the time to listen to their stakeholders, offer support where necessary and give their stakeholders the benefit of the doubt. Again, their ego and pride don’t push them to seek revenge for missteps or demand that they humiliate their stakeholders for their mistakes. They don’t feel the need to make examples of people. They are altruistic, compassionate and listen before jumping in with an opinion.

When a Crisis Occurs: Authenticity, Courage

Business won’t always be smooth sailing and knowing how to handle this rough weather is essential. In society, we often conflate tactless with being authentic and being cavalier with having courage. Being authentic or honest is not about vomiting your fears, frustrations, hang-up’s, etc. onto your stakeholders and then feeling surprised when they don’t handle it well. Being courageous or fearless isn’t about riding roughshod over people’s genuine concerns, ignoring their feedback, or minimising/denying their experiences. Authentic leaders admit their fears, listen to the concerns of their stakeholders, and foster an environment where stakeholders feel that all involved will come through the crisis together.

Competencies of a Conscious Leader

To be a conscious leader you need to be able to effectively prove that your focus is not on clout, prestige, accolades for yourself. Your stakeholders aren’t there only to make you look good. They don’t exist simply as inanimate props in your career trajectory. To do this you need to have or develop competencies in empowering others, provide stewardship to stakeholders and building effective, mutually beneficial relationships.


A conscious leader behaves towards their team and individuals, more specifically, in such a way that they feel empowered in their work rather than simply like a tiny cog in a big machine. They do this in the following ways: - expressing confidence in high performance - fostering opportunities for participation in decision making - providing autonomy from bureaucratic constraints - enhancing the meaningfulness of work (Kwak & Jackson, 2015, p. 371)

All of these speak to an individuals most basic needs in their work, to find meaning in their work, to feel competent enough to complete the tasks assigned to them, to feel a sense of control over the work they have to do and the feeling that their work matters to the overall team effort (Kwak & Jackson, 2015, p. 371).


Stewardship is the “long-term foresight, effective listening (and) humility” (Schretzman, Cassell, Hogg, Medina, Patel, Enowmanyi & Weihs, 2019) that is displayed by a conscious leader. It results in an organisation that remains “structurally competent and purposefully strong.” (Schretzman et al., 2019). With a leader who has the quality, any organisation will have an “internal environment that empowers others and aligns with the ethics of employees, ultimately providing a durable framework for decision-making” (Schretzman et al., 2019).

Relationship Building

Conscious leaders know they may be working remotely, and their team members might not be in an adjacent office, but they will always be collaborating with others. Effective collaboration is impossible without strong relationships. We all know that “relationship building and the maintenance of these connections require significant investments of time … Without ongoing support, they can become brittle or break off entirely” (Emery & Bregendahl, 2014, p. 280). Conscious leaders know that relationship= building activities are not “nice to have’s” they are “must have’s”.

The Benefits of Having a Conscious Leader

Why is it so much better to be a conscious leader? Conscious leaders act ethically and contribute to “the formation of trusting relationships in the workplace, and develop…(stakeholders) the anticipation of fair reciprocation for their contributions” (Kaemer, Andrews, Harris and Tepper, 2013; Lam, Loi, Chan and Liu, 2016; Mayer, Aquino, Greenbaum and Kuenzi, 2012; in Bavik, Tang, Shao and Lam, 2018, p. 324).

For the Individual

As individual collaborators, all involved will benefit by “learning how to behave and comply with (moral) norms both vicariously (i.e., by observing others) and directly from their own experience” (Bavik et al., 2018, p. 324). They will be more inclined to mimic the behaviour of the conscious leader who “manifests moral values such as honesty, trustworthiness, social responsiveness, fairness, caring, and openness (Brown et al., 2005 in Bavik et al., 2018, p. 324).

For the Team

As a team of group of collaborators the ability to see a conscious leader act based on their values will encourage the team or group to “develop moral concerns and values and learn to engage in moral and socially desirable behaviour characterized by genuine concern for others' needs and interests” (Schaubroeck et al., 2012 in Bavik et al., 2018, p. 325). There will be less “what’s in it for me” or “every person for themselves” and more “how is this going to work for us all”.

For the Business as a Whole

As a business or network of collaborators this type of leadership helps to create a culture that “hold more positive views of humanity and engage in more prosocial behaviour” (Bavik et al., 2018, p. 325). It leads to more inclusivity and allows for a better representation of the business, brand or those they actively engage with. After all, you are whom you associate with, right?

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In this article, we’ve discussed the characteristics, competencies, and benefits of being a conscious leader and collaborating with others who share these same qualities. To find out more, just keep reading. Whether you aspire to become a leader, business owner or influencer you need to determine how you will the influence you will have those around you. I hope that by reading this article how beneficial it is to be a conscious leader and wield any influence you have in a positive way. After all, nothing in this world can improve or change if we all wait for someone else to do “something about it”.

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