Return to site

The quest for Conscious Leadership

How to be a better leader

· Conscious Leadership

From Genesis (Abraham) to 20stcentury, power and leadership was generally linked to a male figure. From the beginning of time, women were staying at home looking after the family, while men were the providers and heads of the family structure. It was a well-balanced system that worked.

Today times are different, and a new paradigm is needed. I am not looking to debate the case of inequality among men and women around the globe. Instead, I would like to highlight the impact we have through the way we lead today.


Looking back into my life and work experience, I see that even a terrible leader can be a teacher. Reading leadership backwards, today I have a better sense of how I would like to serve as a leader and mentor moving forward.

From Silicon Valley, where I live, to Australia, I keep hearing the term ‘boys’ club’ and it makes me wonder what has gone wrong in today’s leadership? Why are many women not feeling at home in leadership roles? Aren’t we in the 21stcentury? Where is the diversity and inclusion we so desperately need to empower people to innovate and take initiative?

In her book Brotopia, Emily Chang, explores the male-dominated culture pervading the tech industry in the Silicon Valley, and looks at why and how women are excluded from it. Diversity & Inclusion does a good job at ‘protecting people from being discriminated against on the grounds of group membership i.e. sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion, belief, or age’, yet not all companies can afford to hire a D&I expert.

Is moral exceptionalism a Silicon Valley syndrome... or does it transcends beyond?

“Moral exceptionalism is disgusting, and Silicon Valley has tons of it, and it stems from a lack of empathy. You assume the people who don’t see the world as you do are uneducated or stupid.” – Emily Chang

When it comes to job capabilities, women are unfairly considered less competent than men and it’s difficult to change the status quo, because people tend to hire candidates similar to themselves. Maybe not intentional yet a terrible bias.

But what if the issue is not about men and women, and more about the way we were taught to amplify or suppress different characteristics, over generations?

Let’s have a closer look at how men and women lead.

Research led by Ros Cardinal show that our current leadership issues are not necessarily gender based… it’s more about our brain structure and chemical (hormone) mix in the brain. When men become driven by fear and insecurity, they force power and status on others. When women are driven by fear and insecurities, they abdicate power and status to be liked.

’Women in leadership are at their best when they quit trying to lead like men...”– Ros Cardinal

If we look at the way most companies are run, we can see how masculine leadership prevails. No pun intended as it’s all ‘old coding’ of the industrial revolution… deeply ingrained in our DNA.

But in the 21stcentury we should know better… there are better ways to lead! Effective leaders today facilitate positive outcomes by tapping into the power of human energy. Best approaches for unleashing human drive, building exceptional work-teams and thriving organizations are: happiness, wellbeing, wisdom, dignity, trust, care, and love.

The case of Conscious Leadership

Looking back to the way I led in my previous younger roles I can’t help it but recognize all the masculine traits mentioned earlier. I wanted to prove I can succeed in a ‘man’s world', yet I see now how it was hurting me all along. When I was 26, I become a manager, with only a degree in nursing. I had no one to guide me or show me how to lead, so I made a lot of mistakes. Later I ran into bad bosses myself and it really made me wonder what would it take to inspire people to bring their education, curiosity, skills, dreams, and hopes to work every day? My wise answer today is Conscious Leadership!

Conscious leadership is all about recognizing your ability and your capacity to become fully human. It integrates the masculine and the feminine, the heart and the mind, and the spirit and the soul – encompassing all what it means to be human. Furthermore, it melds Western systems and efficiency with Eastern wisdom and effectiveness.

Why should we care

  • Peter Drucker highlights how critical leadership remains ‘Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership’. 
  • Research led by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter shows that 77 percent of leaders think they do a good job of engaging their people, yet 88 percent of employees say their leaders don't engage enough…therefore organizations and leaders aren't meeting employees' basic human needs of finding meaning, purpose, connection, and genuine happiness in their work.
  • A global survey led by John Gerzema found that feminine attributes are strongly correlated with more effective leadership, happiness, and other positive impacts.

So maybe leading as a whole person is more important than ever! It’s ok to be vulnerable, we all are… being brave enough to show it, that's where leadership starts.

“Carl Jung observed that every woman has an inner man and every man has an inner woman. How do we get in touch with that other side of our own personas and learn how to harness it so we can become integrated whole humans? It’s dangerous to lead from a place of not being whole. When you’re not whole, you’re fragmented and filled with fear and insecurity. Leading as a whole person requires men and women alike to tap into and integrate our innate ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ qualities.”– Conscious Capitalism Field Guide

It’s important to understand when it’s right to dial-up or dial-down on 'masculine' or 'feminine' traits. To better understand your default state, you can take the masculine – feminine stereotype assessment below:

*Conscious Capitalism Field Guide source (2018)

Look at the figure, and total your score (with +3 being the most 'masculine' and -3 being the the most 'feminine', zero is neutral), for all five sections above. The higher your number, the more 'masculine' your leadership style.

What's in it for you

  • Would you like to build an organization that makes a positive impact in the world?
  • Would you like to create a culture that values innovation and social consciousness in your organization? 
  • Would you like to build a more human and more sustainably high-performing organization?
  • What about creating a great workplace that upgrades people's work experience?
  • How about turning your business relationships from win-lose to win-win-win?

Successful companies of the future are those rooted in a deeper sense of purpose!

Today we are seeing a far greater recognition of so-called feminine qualities such as nurturing nature, compassion, tendency to think about win-win outcomes, a longer-term perspective, and life-affirming approaches. Integrating masculine and feminine qualities is key to being whole... it's part of who we are.

Unconscious leadership is not sustainable, it can deliver short term results, but the costs of living and leading unconsciously are enormous. Fear drives many leaders to make choices that are at odds with healthy relationships, vitality and balance. So why not shift from fear-based to trust-based leadership?

As a conscious leader today I commit to being the resolution or solution that is needed... seeing what is missing in the world as an invitation to become that which is required. So, I would like to leave you with one last question:

What are the values you live and measure your life by?

Thank you!

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!