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  • Stephen Scott Johnson

Conscious Leadership – Navigating Thresholds and Cliffhangers

As we come out of another lockdown in Melbourne, I’ve been doing a tonne of reflecting this week about my contribution, significant relationships, and the communities to which I belong. There have been many beautiful conversations and existential musings with clients and peers, questions like “Will the shadow of this pandemic ever dissipate?” and “My [insert: business/industry/career] is dead, how do I reinvent?” and “Is my pre-Covid aspiration even relevant anymore?”


Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?


We all ask these questions at some stage in our quest to find meaning, now more than ever. Instead of diving deeper in search of truth, often we strive forwards in an attempt to satiate the longing and seek fulfilment beyond ourselves, becoming even busier and more disconnected. What I’ve come to realise amidst the stress, reactivity and complexity, is that there is also a gift within the chaos and uncertainty of change – an invitation to connect with our own sense of meaning and belonging – to get clear on what we really want – and find a higher purpose strategy for navigating (and thriving) in the new world of work.


Within the chaos and uncertainty of change is an invitation to be more.


No organisation on the planet is immune to the modern context of navigating thresholds and cliffhangers. On a daily basis, leaders I work with confirm the incredible pressure they are under to maintain efficiencies, achieve more with less, and make the most of what is now a largely decentralised workforce. A lot of fear is associated with change – firstly, because our identity and own sense of purpose is so intrinsically tied to what we do and, secondly, because of uncertainty and inability to have absolute control of the endgame. It requires courage and conviction – to go beyond the boundaries of what is known and safe and comfortable and explore new worlds of possibility – to lead from a higher state of awareness and imagine a future context that for the most part is intangible. It’s like your first moment of truth – the ‘Aha moment’ when you suddenly realise the impact of your actions and that we are all connected to each other.


In this context, conscious leadership isn’t an esoteric or New Age concept. At the most basic level, according to Arthur Kendall (in his article ‘What is conscious leadership?’), it allows one to find new and effective solutions to challenges and provide the four things most demanded of a leader: Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope.


Conscious leadership beckons us all to step up and lead in a different way.


As if in reaction to all that is systemically wrong in the world, the increase in conscious awareness, agility and accountability (in business and society) has given rise to a plethora of self-help and DIY movements spanning entrepreneurial ‘work from anywhere’ and ‘be your own boss’ programs, to ‘life hacks’ and vitality ventures focused on happiness, mindfulness and wellbeing. The problem is that when we strive to live up to the expectations of a system that is inherently broken, we become progressively more detached from all that is nurturing, wholesome and abundant.


At the heart of this conscious leadership paradigm, co-creation and co-ownership are increasingly becoming viable solutions for social and economic sustainability, evidenced by ‘maker culture’ and many emergent ‘Full Circle’ economy initiatives dedicated to repurposing and regeneration. These shifts are a sure sign of people losing faith in an outmoded world system – emphasised by increasingly vehement consumer opposition toward the unconscionable actions of organisations that harm people and the planet. Still, there seems to be a lot of confusion and differing opinion as to what conscious leadership actually is, and why it is so important.


Where there is change there are almost always curious people who are willing to ask the tough questions – authentic, passionate, self-aware individuals who push the boundaries of what is possible and make meaning of their environment to create positive impact. From taking radical responsibility and ‘feeling all feelings’ to practicing integrity and excelling in your zone of genius, the question is, what kind of a leader will you choose to be?


Until next time...