Intrapreneurs are destined to change our outlook on leadership and what it means to be true to one’s self and society. To leverage what is right, just, and fair in the face of adversity.

They have already made strides in changing our interpretation of what business is and should be.  Now it is time for them to step up to demonstrate their commitment and conviction to implementing conscious leadership. To show us the path forward.

It is not just about having an entrepreneurial mindset but putting that thinking into to action that is the ultimate test.

It was over 10 years ago that one of the first conferences on conscious leadership was held at Bentley College near Boston. The Conscious Leadership and Marketing conference was filled with well-known business leaders, consultants, futurists, academics, independent business owners and even a shaman.  There were nuggets of wisdom in every speech that related to being a conscious leader but not everything seemed to fit.

Like many of the participants I found myself at a conference with a topic I knew little about.  Relating to the topic meant drawing on my own mental models to see connections, draw conclusions and find a way to understand.  Being present meant putting aside my own beliefs and being open to what is possible.

After spending two days at the conference, I wondered if Intrapreneurs were conscious leaders or on the path to becoming conscious leaders. At the time the answer eluded me. It seemed appropriate to revisit that question considering today’s business environment.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from the conference. They highlighted a shift in mindset and operating principles needed for conscious leadership.

  • Transformational leadership – leading with head, heart, and soul.
  • Fearless pursuit of purpose – purpose first then strategy.
  • Leading with your values – take a set of values and make them real.
  • Meaning is the anchor – leaders with purpose transform organizations.
  • Trust and confidence are the same – trust is a key part of reputation.
  • Integrating the masculine and feminine – highest level of adult development
  • Manifesting who you are – self-awareness and self-expression.
  • Culture eats strategy for breakfast – soft is the new hard.
  • Reframing how we do business – making short term tradeoffs for the long term.
  • Redefining return – doing good and doing well.

Now ten years later I can see that conscious leadership is not a revolution but an evolution. It reflects where we have been and where we need to go.  It is a rejection of all that is bad about business and an acceptance of all that is good about humanity.  It goes beyond Corporate Social Responsibility or Social Innovation to embody the power of human expression, self-determination and doing things for the greater good.  Being all, we can be as individuals and as organizations.

Many of the things on this list are what motivate and drive intrapreneurs.  Not everything they do is for the greater good, but the intent is there.  As Michael Gelb a pioneer in innovative leadership said, “Things are the way they are because we designed them to be that way.”  He went on to say that the only way to change the landscape is to redesign it.

Intrapreneurs have been trying to do just that within the constraints of a system where profit was king.  What could they do if they worked in a system where people, planet and profit reined?

The concept of conscious leadership continues to evolve. So, what does it mean to be a conscious leader today in the face of complexity and uncertainty?

Here are a few definitions of Conscious Leadership.

“The conscious leader is one who brings a higher level of awareness into their own self and the world around them. They have a deeper connection into their own internal states which allows them to see what’s really going on within and outside themselves in a given moment.” Kevin Rafferty, The Conscious Leaders Coach.

Conscious leaders speak with integrity, lead with authenticity and hold themselves accountable. They listen with the intent to understand and not just to respond, and they do it by being in tune with themselves and the world around them.” Jennifer Cohen, Forbes

A Conscious Leader builds trust and earns credibility. They are Grounded in Self-Awareness and exudes the Gratitude that drives their vision. A Conscious Leader is purposeful and focused on solutions that sustain positive momentum.” Syntesis Global, Executive Coaching

“Conscious leaders are skilled in self-awareness and self-management, especially of their emotions. Great leadership is connected with the deepest parts of ourselves and is about character, courage and conviction.” The LeaderSharp Collective, Leadership Development and Business Advisory Professionals

Conscious Leadership comes from within and is a highly personal stand for being responsible for how we show up, experience and contribute to the world. As a conscious leader, you are drawn by a compelling vision and intentional about what kind of future you want to bring into existence.” Conscious Leadership Evolution

“Conscious leadership: This is the idea that conscious leaders understand and embrace the higher purpose of business and focus on creating value for and harmonizing the interests of the business stakeholders. Driven primarily by service to the firm’s purpose, rather than by power or money, conscious leaders “inspire, foster transformation, and bring out the best in those around them.” The Arthur W. Page Center

The common theme that runs through all these descriptions is self-awareness.  It seems that the path to conscious leadership is paved through self-awareness.  The ability to know oneself – your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts and feelings, beliefs and values, behavior patterns and the capacity for self-reflection.  According to researchers, self-awareness is a key determinant of leadership success. A person that is self-aware is better able to manage themselves and others more effectively.

Being conscious requires being authentic, responsible, and accountable for the greater good. It means being conscious about the world around us both internally and externally. Understanding that there is a higher purpose to business than just profit and acting accordingly. That is the essence of what being a conscious leader is all about.  It is the path forward.

My guess is that intrapreneurs are already well on the path to conscious leadership.  What do you think?

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Originally Published May 2011. Updated 2/15/ 2021

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