Conscious Leadership Isn’t Just About the Do-ing
In June I participated in the inaugural Conscious Company Global Leaders Forum, a gathering of about 200 business executives who are interested in evolving themselves as a conscious leaders. They share a goal of bringing deeper awareness to bear inside companies to change how business is done, and to create positive, meaningful ripple effects in the bigger world.
As you might guess, some of the attendees were from recognizable companies like Google, Patagonia, Clif Bar, GoPro, and Seventh Generation. Economic innovators like Kat Taylor from Beneficial State Bank, and mission-oriented CEO Vincent Siciliano with New Resource Bank were there. Game changing leaders from BALLE, Bioneers, Social Ventures Network, Oxfam, B Lab, and American Sustainable Business Council attended as well, along with many chapter heads and members of the Conscious Capitalism national network, NEXUS, and Village Capital.
This event was especially impactful for me because of the intimate nature of the gathering—and its purpose. This was no typical conference in a hotel ballroom. It was a thoughtfully designed experience meant to help each participant start with themselves and their personal development as conscious leaders, nourished by both existing and newly-established relationships with each other. They will then carry this community of peers, all working toward similar goals, back into their work, better equipped to lead from a place of consciousness and intentionality.
The framework we were given on day one was very simple: Me, We, World. With each learning and growth experience during the three-day Forum, we looked at how these simple lenses helped us see how we could create the positive impact we each want to see in the world.
We began the three days together by spending a full morning dedicated to the Foundations of Mindful Leadership, in a workshop led by Cory Smith and Meg Levie. Meg Levie is a highly respected teacher with Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute and a Zen priest. Cory Smith is the Co-Founder of Wisdom Labs. Both are well steeped in bringing mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and tools based on neuroscience into the workplace so that people are healthier and more resilient.
It’s clear that neuroscience has made a strong and attractive case to business that helping employees thrive is good for the bottom line. It was also clear at this Forum that a significant number of companies of all sizes are providing a workplace culture and experience that values the whole health of a person. As Cory Smith, who is also the recent CEO of SOCAP, put it “Real innovation is going to happen from the inside out.”
The conversations got pretty personal, with many of the speakers sharing their challenges and victories in bringing their whole self to work. These companies are elegantly transforming and awkwardly stumbling forward, exploring this space where the people within the company are able to thrive. Vince Siciliano shared his personal path of becoming aware of his privileges and blind spots as a white man who was raised to believe he should be the “master of his universe” and through failing and failing again—getting negative feedback from his employees when he thought he was doing a great job—he opened himself to learning, gaining a humility and embarking on a path of personal growth which has made him the open, thoughtful, connected, present leader that he is today.
Lynne Twist, the author of The Soul of Money, and Co-Founder of Pachamama Alliance, was a highlight of the three days. She spoke to an intimate and reverent group of about fifty people about her own path of personal growth, which was shaped powerfully by the callings that she’s had to serve with a bigger purpose and impact in mind. Lynne’s story is one worth hearing if you’re not yet familiar with her. She has dedicated her life to doing work toward ending world hunger, helping people transform their relationship with money, and most recently working alongside the indigenous communities living in the Amazon rain-forest who depend on and are protectors of what she calls “the lungs of the earth.”
She is working to help “change the dream of the modern world” from one of consuming to one of connection, compassion, and embracing “the radical surprising truth of sufficiency.”
Lynne tells the stories of the ways she’s been called to serve in her life, and shared that at one point, she was being called to a new purpose—one that brought fear and uncertainly. Once she finally opened to it, she was transformed by the very act of that acceptance. She said: “In order of being worthy of that commitment, I had to become someone I didn’t know I could become.”
For me, the underlying message of these three days spent exploring conscious business and leadership is that, like my wise business mentor Christine Kane has taught me, a conscious leader is as much about Be-ing (who we are, how we show up as leaders and as whole human beings within our work) as it is about Do-ing (how we are taking action and focusing our energy to create impact through our work).
The experience of being a part of this conscious business community left its mark on me. My colleagues at Natural Investments embody this way of conscious leadership. Each of us at NI has our own way of living our values and personal development as we move down our own paths—and we bring this to our work. To be surrounded by over 200 people living and working and transforming the way we are doing business, leading companies, creating wellness and business culture that is aligned with what we value—it was inspiring and energizing. I left with an expanded perspective on my place in this work, reminded at how special our team of economy transformers at NI really is, and excited to be a part of creating these shifts toward better business and an economy that works in harmony with people and the planet rather than one that is mostly exploitative and extractive.
I’m grateful for the vision of Conscious Company Media, which brought us together, and I am truly looking forward to next year.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Natural Investment News.