As I wrote in my year-end FutureShapers blog – “Living Life as a Kick Ass Commitment,” becoming a conscious leader is a commitment to a whole new lifestyle. It isn’t like reading a new book, taking a workshop or changing jobs. It is closer to joining the clergy or committing oneself to raising a family. The challenge is maintaining this lifestyle change once you make the commitment.
Like doctors, lawyers, real estate agents and other professionals who have continuing education requirements, leaders need a process of refreshment and upgrading to maintain their leadership know-how. If they further aspire to be a conscious leader they also need a practice of regular self-examination and reflection.
Such a practice can include some form of meditation or inner-work that keeps the muscles of the heart and spirit in good shape as one does when exercising the body and the mind. Over a lifetime, our minds develop some bad habits and these habits only remain unchanged with plenty of practice. Our hearts have also developed some bad habits, like deferring to our heads on most occasions, or closing down when something reaches out to touch them. Many people find their practices are quite spiritual in nature, either following a religious tradition or a non-religious but spiritual path, such as yoga or the martial arts.
Myself, I find regular meditation, weekly 12 Step meetings and a monthly spiritual circle to which I belong all combine to support me in getting out of myself, better enabling me to distinguish between ego and my higher guidance. When I start skipping any of these elements of my practice – when I go too long without a meeting or meditating – I can feel my ego entertaining old thought patterns. These patterns of thinking are often called the “slippery slopes” by people in my groups, suggesting one is likely to fall prey to a chain of egoist thought, often with negative consequences.
Becoming a conscious leader is not a summit to be achieved or a credential to be earned. Being a conscious leader is work. It takes an inner rigor, regular exercise or practice to maintain, sustain and remain conscious.
One of my favorite metaphors is the water fowl that become oil-soaked because of a spill in the region. Rescuers can clean the birds and restore their buoyancy but when they are released nothing prevents them from becoming oil soaked again. The world is filled with dysfunctional systems that will strongly influence us – even after we have had that spiritual awakening or transformational experience – and we need a practice to maintain our “buoyancy” and not get “oil-soaked” and lose our ability to float.