A new style of business leadership focusing on a culture of “we” rather than “me” is gathering momentum and even has a name – conscious leadership. An aspiring read from Emily Chantiri, writing in ExecutiveStyle.
John Renesch, a San Francisco-based businessman turned futurist and author of Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing, coined the term a few years ago to communicate this quality of management.
“Conscious” leaders are defined as those who inspire and bring out the best in those around them, foster transformation, and manage beyond conventional profits. They embrace a role to serve the purpose of the organisation, to support its employees and to create value for the company’s stakeholders.
Renesch says conscious leadership is a move away from the traditional and intimidating form of leadership towards integrity, unity and trust. In contrast to traditional leaders who spend years building resumes, acquiring wealth and power, and who play politics to build titles and rank, a new breed of managers understands that a conscious style of leadership will result in higher performance and ultimately higher profits.
Sydney-sider Muneesh Wadhwa is an advocate of the “conscious” style. Two years ago, the events industry veteran began questioning his own purpose and role. It wasn’t so much that he was not happy in what he did, he says; more that he needed to find a purpose bigger than himself.
“I’ve been an events manager for 15 years, organising business and social events. I began asking myself ‘why I am I doing this? What is my mission and purpose?’ This self-reflection brought me to conscious leadership,” he says.
“I began researching conscious capitalism and I joined groups and started following conscious companies in the US. I wanted to replicate the model here and bring people together to talk about the conscious way of leading.”
Early this year, Wadhwa set up an event focusing on conscious leadership, called Humanity in Business, which was attended by 140 people.
“I didn’t have a single name on my database, and I was quite surprised by the interest in this topic. Word spread through my network of friends and colleagues,” he says.
“Conscious leadership is gathering momentum, particularly in the US – people first, and then profit. Companies like Whole Foods, which is a billion dollar company and is proof that conscious leadership works. These companies are making more money than the companies which are more profit focus-based.”
Whole Foods is the leading retailer of natural and organic foods in the world, and the fastest growing and most profitable public food retailer in the US. Others adopting similar models include Starbucks, Southwest Airlines and clothing company Patagonia.
Richard Jamieson, the acting deputy CFO of the Westpac Group, has been practising the conscious style of leadership for more than 10 years.
“I have been managing this way for many years. There are many others, too, who manage in this way. Now we have a name for it, conscious leadership,” he says.
“If you want to be a conscious leader – one who truly cares about staff – then start from the beginning, at the interviewing process. It is ingrained within the way you operate as a manager. From the simple things like how you greet your staff each day, to how you treat them in the corridor or in meetings.”
He says to be a successful conscious leader you must genuinely care for your team members, and this extends far beyond their work deliverables and career.
Caring about staff is one aspect of conscious leadership. A commitment and focus to the business is the other. Together, they lead to improved outcomes for all.
“If you have a manager who cares about his staff, then these employees are more likely to work harder for their manager. Consider how you would like to be treated. Tap into your staff as individuals, and not just a commodity making money,” Jamieson says.
“Ask them, what is their home life like, or their health? How many people can say their employer truly cares about their wellbeing? The benefit to organisations is loud and clear; lower turnover, higher staff engagement and improved knowledge retention. The combination of those three elements leads to a stronger, powerful team.”