Conscious Leadership operates on the presupposition that when something is in the highest good, the good will ultimately benefit the whole, even if there are isolated costs and losses.
The question always at the forefront of decisions, then, is: Is it in the highest good?
You may ask… whose highest good? That is a perfectly reasonable question, and it seems so simple, right? However, many people will justify a decision because it is in the highest good of the company, instead of choosing what is in the highest good generally.
The conscious challenge isn’t in the asking, however. It’s in the answering. A conscious leader will dig deeper than an unconscious leader to find out more about unintended consequences and real-life short and long-term impacts of a decision before it’s made.
We don’t need to look further than the pandemic to witness how challenging it is to make truly conscious decisions. There are more costs to COVID than just life. COVID has also impacted time, money, memories, mental health, long-term health, staff shortages, supply chain bottlenecks, and so on and so forth. Which impact means the most to you will determine what decisions you make naturally and automatically. That makes it unconscious, however.
To make the conscious choice, a leader, or a team of leaders, must evaluate the impacts using empathy for all of the stakeholders and objectively sum up the benefits and costs to each community and environment, yet still remain open, agile, and adaptable to consider real-time information.
It takes a high level of individual and communal self-awareness to notice (and dismiss) the justifications that lead people to favor a decision that benefits them most or costs them the least. These pivot points are where leaders must flip from conscious to unconscious. When you don’t have an attachment to what needs to change and when it doesn’t have that much of an impact on you directly, it is a lot less challenging to determine if something is in the highest good. When you do have something to lose or gain, conscious leaders must detach from the outcome and mentally prepare for the outcome that is a personal loss, but a community gain.
The intention, sometimes unconsciously, becomes preserving comforts, avoiding the difficulty and complexity of change, and defending the status quo.
Michael Taylor, Principal of SchellingPoint, says that the main sticking point of change is that, many times, people don’t agree that change is even needed; they don’t agree that there’s even a problem.
I can tell you from dozens to hundreds of conversations with professionals through the years that unenlightened decision-making drives many, many people to step their toes into the job market, if not jump in headfirst. However, just like a global pandemic has costs that go well beyond potential death, your workforce’s disenchantment with decisions made at the top also has costs well beyond turnover. These costs can include lost productivity, lost engagement, and lost enthusiasm from your sales force, which can lead to lost revenue and lost faith, making all change initiatives that much harder.
What about the question, is earning this compensation in the highest good? How does a C-level executive consciously, objectively answer this question?
Ah. Now, the ratio of CEO:frontline worker has exponentially gotten worse for the low rungs yet obscenely great for the higher rungs. This isn’t in the highest good, as it benefits very few. But who is willing to cut out luxuries from their lives for the greater good of others? I am willing to bet that even if you are not personally facing this decision, you have already started to justify this hypothetically for yourself.
Do you justify accepting more than your team gets because you earned it? Put in the work? Made enough sacrifices? Have the most responsibility and so, the most to lose? Who better to be trusted with all that wealth? Is this how it works when you climb the corporate ladder?
The divide between the haves and have nots is growing. You may think that as long as you can make the above justifications, there is balance and things will shake out even in the end. However, if you take what you aren’t willing to make possible for your team, you are making an assumption that may actually limit your legacy.
I loved my first boss in recruiting. She definitely communicated that building her firm required her “blood, sweat, and tears.” She planted the entrepreneurial seeds that became Epic Careering. Still, while I was earning $5-10K below my peers, paying back student loans that so far had no return, and driving a junker that kept breaking down, I harbored resentment for the high life she appeared to live. After my first year, when I believed I earned a promotion and healthy raise to correct my underpayment, she instead told me she had to cut benefits out, but she would do it gradually, out of mercy. Not long after, she enjoyed vacation #2 of the year in Hawaii, while I needed to borrow money from my brother so I could attend his wedding in Jamaica and skip altogether a west coast trip with my then-boyfriend. I was bitter and became gradually more disengaged in my work. I had my own justifications, then.
Be mindful of your justifications. They may be perfectly reasonable, yet will have consequences that don’t serve your higher purpose. Ultimately, it becomes your justifications vs. theirs, and everyone suffers by not realizing the best possible outcome.
Like the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when the boss says, “Sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn’t mean much if to get it, you have to hurt the ones you depend on.” And the hurt it causes, well, it just ”SUCKS”, as Rusty puts it.
One of the reasons why I love the show Undercover Boss is the poignant moment when the struggles of employees become real. In the end, the boss winds up bestowing employees with fairly, sometimes extremely, significant gifts and opportunities. The beneficiaries, however, are just those lucky enough to have interacted with the undercover boss. The company is chock-full of people of the same ilk, now probably wondering why they couldn’t be as lucky. Maybe they feel a bit warmer toward the boss for his or her generosity, but it doesn’t change their daily struggles to afford what the boss easily affords.
Again, the real costs go way beyond those itemized on the P&L report.
Do you want to learn to become a more conscious leader? Are you dedicated to making decisions for the highest good?
We are looking for co-founders of the Conscious Leadership movement right now. Hit me up on LinkedIn or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Karen Huller, CEO of Epic Careering, is the co-founder of The Consciousness Conference (ConCon) and the C3: Corporate Consciousness Co-op community on LinkedIn. She is the creator of the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint and author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days. She founded Epic Careering, a conscious career and leadership development firm specializing in executive branding, talent-values alignment, and conscious culture, in 2006.
While the bulk of Mrs. Huller’s 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. Her solutions incorporate breakthroughs in neuroscience, human performance optimization, bioenergetics, and psychology to help leaders accelerate rapport, expand influence, and elevate engagement and productivity while also looking out for the sustainability of the business and the planet.
Mrs. Huller was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
Mrs. Huller was an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. As an instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, she has helped two of her students win the 2018 National Competition to be named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, to win the 2019 People’s Choice Award, and to land in the top 8 during the (virtual) 2020 National Competition.
She serves on the board for the Upper Merion Community Center, which she helped establish, and is an advisor to Florida International University for their Women in Leadership program. For her service as Vice President of the Gulph Elementary PTC, she received recognition as a Public Education Partner and Promoter from the Upper Merion Area Education Association. Mrs. Huller has also been the lead singer for Harpers Ferry, a rock cover band, for 20 years. She lives in King of Prussia, PA with her husband, two daughters, and many pets, furry, feathered, and scaly.