I have spent the last 18 months interviewing business people for my Conscious Leaders podcast and I wanted to share reflections on what makes them stand out.
The podcast itself is all about embracing and promoting a modern, alternative approach to leadership. I started it because my research highlighted that leaders love learning from their peers. My guests are CEOs or founders who are doing something radical or innovative in the way they lead their people. For example, the founder of Riverford, Guy Singh-Watson, featured on a recent episode as I sought to explore their employee ownership model.
Through this podcast, I try and to avoid ‘corporate speak’. I have focused on down to earth, gritty, real stories about what’s working and what’s been tough.
Here are five traits that I think make them stand out as conscious.
These leaders are curious and keen to understand people, not just at a superficial level but at depth. They want to know what makes their leaders and employees tick, so go to lengths to really get to know people well and build strong relationships with their teams.
They lean into discomfort
They face up to difficulties like poor behaviour at work and offer direct and compassionate feedback to individuals to help them improve. As American TED talk star and leadership coach Brené Brown puts it: ‘clear is kind’. It is easy to let things slide but conscious leaders know that the ‘difficult conversations’, when handled skilfully, really help people grow.
They give away power
They are not interested in taking the glory, they are prepared to be wrong and question their own decisions so that they can become better people.
Progressive leaders are all about empowering others and facilitating their growth. Short term, this is not the fastest way to lead because it takes time for someone to develop. They are prepared to take this time.
They have deep faith in others’ potential
We all know bosses who criticise, doubt, gossip, make sweeping judgements; but conscious leaders seem to offer people a deep sense of faith. They have an inherent belief in others to step up and perform. This stance helps people grow more naturally into their new capacity (as they are seen to be more capable, they start to walk it too).
They provide a sense of safety
There is nothing like knowing that, if you take a leap at work and fall, there is someone to catch you. We know from the research by Google that the key to high-performing teams is psychological safety- knowing that you will have equal time to speak up and be heard, and that both success and failure will be seen as opportunities to learn.
In short, conscious leaders are self-reflective people leaders who help people flourish. They may not shout the loudest but they are there facilitating, nurturing and allowing their employees to thrive.